Inside Nukotoys’ Project to Build a Monster iPad Hit for Kids

8/23/12Follow @wroush

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more than year of work creating the games and the collectible card sets.

There are 60 cards in the Animal Planet series and 100 in the Monsterology series. To encourage kids to keep buying card packs, Nukotoys makes sure some cards are rare; the more endangered the animal or the more powerful the monster, the fewer of their cards are in circulation.

The games themselves, which are built on the Unity 3D engine, are aimed at kids who are old enough to read but young enough to be interested in cheetahs, giraffes, and dragons. (Which could be pretty old. I’m just sayin’.) In the Monsterology game, players work their way through 10 levels by pitting the monsters from their cards against other monsters in the game; ultimately they must take on Vidious Mulderbane, an evil wizard who is trying to take control of the Oloverse, the world in which all of the Ology books are set. In Animal Planet Wildlands, which is aimed at a slightly younger crowd, things are a little tamer—the game is mainly about building collections of animals and letting them race around the savanna.

The Monsterology 3-card pack

Both games have an educational component, but it’s not front and center. “There is an interesting infographic about what parents would say to game developers,” says Raderman. “In the middle is ‘Be educational,’ but even bigger than that is ‘Be fun.’ We are aiming for fun first, but in Animal Planet kids are learning about animals and in Monsterology they are learning about mythology. Plus, there is this magical moment of tapping a Nuko card and bringing it to life in the game, in a way that hasn’t been seen before.”

Penman and Raderman share the CEO role at the 10-employee startup, which has plans to sell more types of virtual items within the games, introduce Pokemon-style tabletop games based on the cards, and even tweak the behavior of the existing games over time.

“We are interested in creating a new type of toy that really takes advantage of this fantastic platform and can evolve over time and become more interesting as the child uses it,” Raderman says. “You have a physical product that is the key to some action or content, but what that content is can change depending on how long they’ve been playing or who their friends are. It can constantly be upgraded according to feedback we’re getting from parents or kids or bloggers. If I tap a Cyclops on Monday it might do something completely different by Wednesday.”

So in the Nukotoys world, at least, there’s more to a Cyclops than meets the eye.

Wade Roush is Chief Correspondent and Editor At Large at Xconomy. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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