While attending my niece's soccer game this past weekend, I noticed a few furry new additions to the family. "They're Webkinz", she said referring to the pink poodle and St. Bernard stuffed animals she and my nephew had brought with them. At first, there didn't seem to be anything special about these Webkinz, until a few of her schoolmates came over with plush little pals of their own. Then they all started talking about emailing each other at their Webkinz addresses, and playing games at the Webkinz web site. That's when I became interested in learning more about this emerging craze created by gift maker Ganz.
Webkinz combines elements of Nintendogs
, The Sims
, Brain Age
, and Nick.com
, packaging all of it together in a secure online environment for kids and their 'kinz. The result is an addictive blend of educational and simulation-style activities geared toward maintaining your pet's avatar and its virtual living space. Food and furniture are paid for with Kinzcash, the community currency which is accrued while playing games and taking quizzes. A word puzzle game had my nephew and I hooked for almost an hour, and the "one more round" syndrome manifested itself in both of us each time we achieved one goal and were given another.
Despite Wall Street grumblings
and increased federal legislation
, this pre-pubescent enthusiasm ensures a healthy future for the gaming industry. Ganz isn't just grooming digital dogs and cats, but also tomorrow's PlayStation 4 and MMO gamers. The ingredients are all here: the online community, competitive gaming, an achievement system, and the W Shop (the place where you spend your Kinzcash). It's not quite Live Anywhere
, but the physical extension of the plush toy creates a persistent real world experience away from the desktop computer, keeping young users engaged throughout the day no matter where they venture. Just make sure you monitor your kids' health and hunger meters as often as they monitor their Webkinz's.
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