Nancy MacIntyre knows that children’s titles are one of the biggest emerging markets in the game industry. She helped grow that business for industry giants like Hasbro, LucasFilm, and LeapFrog. Fast forward a couple years and suddenly iPhone games are big business too. MacIntyre combined those two markets and created Fingerprint, a company that’s striving to make the most educational, fun and kid friendly games in the mobile space.
With many early successes, like acquiring the beloved Veggie Tales license, Fingerprint is off to the races, with many games already on the table and many more exciting titles planned.
GiN Business Editor Nate Wooley was able to catch up with MacIntyre, barely, to chat about the mobile games market for kids, what it takes to create a successful startup in this industry, and why she feels her legacy in gaming will be more than just a passing fingerprint.
GiN: You’ve been at some very big firms. What led you to move over to Fingerprint?
MacIntyre: I didn’t move over to Fingerprint, I dreamed up Fingerprint! I’d worked in video games, edutainment, and kids products my whole career and knew right away that the iPhone would change everything for children’s games. I had great experiences working at Hasbro, LucasFilm, and LeapFrog, but the opportunity to build a business was very appealing. I was fortunate that I met two amazing investors, Daniel Klaus and Kevin Wendle from K2 MediaLabs, two very successful media guys to found Fingerprint.
GiN: So it’s the entrepreneur thing. Any surprises along the way?
MacIntyre: Related to the entrepreneur thing, there were a couple of surprises. First, how much time I initially spent raising money and talking to investors. Secondly, how quickly I needed to make big decisions and third, how hard it was to recruit and hire great talent that would fit into our company culture.
GiN: Why mobile games? And why those mobile games?
MacIntyre: It’s clear that mobile games have arrived. Nielsen just published a report that top holiday gift request is the iPad. Because of the touch screen interface, the youngest kids from 2 years on are able to play games. We’re focused on learning games, or games with benefits that can engage and entertain children.
Our catalog spans across a broad range of topics: geography, math, reading, language, and a broad range of play patterns from platformer to puzzle to strategy game.
Our latest group of titles are all unique in their own right. Scribble My Story is a creativity product for kids to write and illustrate their own books. Greenstreets: Unleash the Loot teaches kids about money by saving endangered animals. Panda Panda No More Mess combines pre-school learning skills and cleaning up! Step-by-Story: The Veggie Tales Collection features a unique modular story concept that supports early reading skills.
GiN: What’s your overall goal for the games?
MacIntyre: Simple, fun, engaging, and enriching. We’ll be successful if kids love our games and parents trust our brand.
GiN: Your brand? That implies more than short term goals. What’s the long term strategy? How far out are you planning?
MacIntyre: We have a long term plan, but I’m not sure I’m ready to go public with it! Let’s put it this way, there will be a leading kids mobile company that delivers content of all types to kids and families. That’s interesting.
GiN: You’re developing Apple platform games for a very young crowd. Do you think that age group, three to eight year old, will have an install base available for the games?
MacIntyre: We’re currently making games for 3 to 8 year olds. Unlike in the video game space, we don’t tend to think about installed base because 3 to 8 year olds tend to have access to shared devices in the family, Mom’s iPhone, the family iPad, or teenage sister’s hand-me-down iPodTouch.
GiN: As the father of two daughters, that sounds rough on the older sister. So you think it’ll be a shared-space environment instead of stand-alone? Do you have any metrics for that?
MacIntyre: What I’m saying is that I think that young kids will get used devices that are handed down from their older siblings or parents. Teenage sister grows out of her iTouch, moves to iPhone. Young sister gets iTouch. That said, I do think that it’s largely a shared space on the iPad today. We know that because our average registered user has 1.7 kids per account. We also know that the iPhone 4s is the number one or two device on all our apps, which is most likely mom or dad’s phone.
GiN: I see you’re set up with Veggie Tales. How’s that worked out? Are there any other licensing arrangements in the pipeline?
MacIntyre: We love Veggie Tales and are launching our first titles in December. We’ll also introduce apps based on Franklin and Friends, Max & Ruby, and Caillou, plus some other big stuff we can’t talk about yet.