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Kid Appeal

2015

An exploration of childrens favorite digital games, how they


select them, and why they engage with them

CGA .

TOP PLAYFUL APPS FOR KIDS 6-14


OVERALL

7%
9%

FREQUENCY WITH WHICH CHILDREN


PLAY THEIR FAVORITE APP

Every Day

44%
41%

The majority of children play their


favorite app at least a few times
a week, with almost half playing
every day.

A few times a week


A few times a month

DEVICE WITH WHICH CHILDREN PREFER


TO PLAY THEIR FAVORITE APP

Once a month

Neither

Although the device on which


children choose to play their favorite
game does vary by device, most
children opt for a tablet over a
smartphone. This trend may be due
to the fact that children have greater
access to, and are more likely to
personally own, tablets versus
smartphones.

Both

13%

17%

Smartphone

25%

Tablet

45%

Almost half of children


play their favorite app
every day.

TOP PLAYFUL APPS FOR KIDS 6-14


OVERALL

39% 28%

41%

27%

70%
100

22%

75

50

25

25

Games that are fun

50

75

100

Use with other people / Extra stuff

Characters I like

Activities that help me learn

A lot of content so I dont get bored

Popular with my friends

MOST IMPORTANT APP FEATURE, ACCORDING TO CHILDREN


The most important criteria when children are selecting their favorite app is, not surprisingly, fun. Almost
three-quarters of children listed this as their top requirement, far above any other characteristic.
However, children also prioritize likeable characters and a wide variety of content to keep them
entertained and engaged. One of the least in-demand features is an ability to use the app with other
people, which may explain why nearly 70% of children play their favorite app alone.
PERSON WITH WHOM CHILDREN PREFER TO PLAY FAVORITE APP

69%
22%

ALONE

WITH FRIENDS

09%

WITH PARENTS

One of the least in-demand


features is an ability to use the app
with other people, which may
explain why nearly 70% of children
play their favorite app alone.

TOP PLAYFUL APPS FOR KIDS 6-14


GENDER DIFFERENCES

GIRLS choices for favorite apps largely mirror the overall list, but the ranking of each app
is slightly varied. The top app among girls is Candy Crush Saga, regardless of the device
that they are using. This app is followed by Angry Birds, pushing Minecraft down to the third
position. Girls top apps also include Subway Surfers, WATCH Disney Channel, Temple Run
2, and Trivia Crack. The majority play by themselves.
Girls list of favorite apps also includes Subway Surfers, WATCH
Disney Channel, Temple Run 2, and Trivia Crack.

11.3% Candy Crush Saga


9.8% Angry Birds
8.5% Minecraft
6.1% ABCmouse.com

Girls Favorite
Apps

5.6% Candy Crush Soda Saga


CANDY CRUSH SAGA
11.3%

5.6%

MINECRAFT
8.5%

16.3%

ABCMOUSE.COM
6.1%

3.0%

CLASH OF CLANS
0.7%

6.4%

BOYS choices for favorite apps are topped by Minecraft and Angry Birds. It seems that
boys may have a favorite app depending which device they are using, since tablets are the
preferred platform for Minecraft, and smartphones are top choice for Angry Birds. Boys
top apps also include Clash of Clans, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Bible for Kids, Boom
Beach, and Despicable Me: Minion Rush. As with girls, the majority of boys still primarily play
their favorite app by themselves.
Boys list of favorite apps also includes Clash of Clans, Grand Theft Auto: San
Andreas, Bible for Kids, Boom Beach, and Despicable Me: Minion Rush.

16.3% Minecraft
10.3% Angry Birds
6.2% Clash of Clans
5.6% Candy Crush Saga
4.2% Angry Birds Star Wars

Boys Favorite
Apps

TOP PLAYFUL APPS FOR KIDS 6-14


GENDER DIFFERENCES

The main reason that both girls and boys provided for their selection of their favorite app is that
they are really good at it. Both genders also enjoy games that are exciting, challenging, involve
characters that they like, and allow them to use their imagination. Girls are 30% more likely than
boys to prefer apps because they make them laugh. Not surprisingly then, girls are also slightly
more likely than boys to point to fun as an important app feature, though they are also more
likely to value apps that help them learn.
REASONS FOR CHILDRENS SELECTIONS OF FAVORITE APPS

41%

Im really good at it

38% 38%

Its challenging

28%

It has characters I like

30%

22% 28%

It makes me laugh

21%

I learn things

25%

86%

16% 22%

Its for children my age

It lets me show off what I can do

9%

11%

18%

21%

It helps me stay connected with my friends

GIRLS think learning activities are


an important app feature.

32%

MOST IMPORTANT APP FEATURES


66%

For girls, characters are key. Not only do girls


list likeable characters as one of the top
reasons behind their favorite app and the
second most important feature of an app in
general but, when asked to design their own
playful game, girls prioritize cute and fun
characters as well as characters they know
or avatars they can create. In fact, it is twice
as important for girls than for boys to have
enjoyable characters as part of their
gaming experience.

41%
38%
22%

For boys, in comparison, app preference is


all about the gameplay itself. Boys also
identify fun as the most important feature
in an app and, when asked to design their
own playful game, boys are much more likely
than girls to require that the app include
action games. Similarly, they are less likely
than girls to want this app to have puzzles,
story creation, or ideas for offline activities,
suggesting that boys may have a more
narrow conception of what constitutes a
successful gaming app.

42%
39%

32%

27%
19%
20%

75%

Games that are fun

Characters I like
A lot of content so I dont get bored

Activites that help me learn

30%

Popular with my friends

24%

Extra stuff like videos and music

23%

I can use the app with other people

MUST-HAVE FEATURES FOR PERSONALLY DESIGNED APP

BOYS would require action games in


an app they designed themselves.

43%

45%

42%
24%

39%
36%

11%

15%
11%

37%

20%
16%

Levels that keep getting harder


Ability to create your own story

32%

26%

Ability to create your own avatar


Characters you know

34%
21%

44%

Puzzles

43%

Action games
Ideas for activities to do offline
Quizzes

TOP PLAYFUL APPS FOR KIDS 6-14


AGE DIFFERENCES

As with the overall favorite apps, both Minecraft and Angry Birds topped the list for 6- to
11-year-old children. However, 6- to 8-year-olds also included Bible for Kids and Frozen:
Storybook Deluxe on their list of favorites, while 9- to 11-year-olds included Crossy Road and
Fruit Ninja. Unlike these two younger age groups, Candy Crush Saga topped the list for 12- to
14-year-olds favorite apps. Their list also included Clash of Clans, Trivia Crack, Grand Theft Auto:
San Andreas, and Big Hero 6: Baymax Blast.
CHILDRENS FAVORITE APPS, BY AGE
6- TO 9-YEAR-OLDS

9- TO 11-YEAR-OLDS

12- TO 14-YEAR-OLDS

12.0%

14.0%

12.6%

10.3%

10.1%

10.3%

9.8%

7.4%

9.7%

6.1%

4.7%

7.9%

3.9%

3.1%

3.9%

Minecraft

Minecraft

Angry Birds

Angry Birds

ABCmouse.com

Candy Crush Saga


Candy Crush Soda Saga

Candy Crush Saga


Angry Birds Star Wars

Crossy Road

Candy Crush Saga


Minecraft
Angry Birds
Clash of Clans
Candy Crush Soda Saga / Trivia Crack

CHILDRENS PREFERRED DEVICE FOR PLAYING GAMES, BY AGE


9 to 11

6 to 8

12 to 14

41%
32%

25%

14%
9%

TABLETS

10%

LAPTOP
28%

21%
16%

9%

CONSOLE

3% 1%

CHILDRENS
TABLET

17% 17%

9% 10%

12%

6%

SMARTPHONE

DESKTOP

It seems that children of all ages may have a favorite


app depending which device they are using, since
tablets are the preferred platform for Minecraft,
and smartphones are top choice for Angry Birds
and Candy Crush Saga. Overall, however, younger
children prefer to play games on a tablet, while older
children increasingly use video game consoles. The
fact that young children are 64% more likely to play
a game on a tablet compared to a teen may be due
to the fact that this younger age group has much
greater access to these devices than they do to
other gaming platforms.
Children ages 6 to 8 are 64% more
likely to play a game on a tablet
compared to a teen.

64%

TOP PLAYFUL APPS FOR KIDS 6-14


AGE DIFFERENCES

REASONS FOR SELECTION OF FAVORITE APPS


6 to 8

9 to 11

12 to 14

IT HAS CHARACTERS I LIKE


39%

25%

23%

ITS CHALLENGING
33%

38%

45%

IT MAKES ME LAUGH
25%

30%

20%

I LEARN NEW THINGS


26%

22%

20%

ITS FOR MY CHILDREN MY AGE


21%

19%

16%

The main reason that children


ages 6 to 11 provide for their
selection of their favorite app
is that they are really good at
it, while children ages 9 to 14
put more value on a game
that challenges them. They
are more likely to require that
an app that they design have
points, rewards, and levels
that get increasingly harder.

I CAN PLAY TOGETHER WITH OTHER KIDS


14%

20%

17%

I CAN COMPETE AGAINST OTHER KIDS


9%

12%

19%

IT HELPS ME STAY CONNECTED TO MY FRIENDS


7%

10%

13%

WHO CHILDREN PLAY GAMES WITH


6 to 8

73%

9 to 11

70%

12 to 14

64%

15%
ALONE

22%

29%
12%

WITH FRIENDS

9%

7%

WITH PARENTS

Young childrens focus on a character-driven gaming experience may help to explain why they are
less interested in a social component to gaming. Not only are younger children the most likely age
group to report playing their favorite game by themselves, but they also rank features such as an
ability to use an app with other people or communicate with other players in the app much lower
than do older children. It seems that 6- to 8-year-olds are looking for a game that is
self-contained, tablet-friendly, and centers on fun and entertaining characters, while 9- to
14-year-olds would prefer a gaming experience that is challenging, reward-driven, and potentially
includes the opportunity to play with others.

CHOOSING AN APP
HOW CHILDREN HEAR ABOUT NEW APPS

Over half of children say that they hear about new apps from their friends. This is particularly true
as children get older. Children between the ages of 6 and 8, on the other hand, are more likely to
hear about new apps from their parents. Very few children reported that they learned of new
apps from advertisements on television, in magazines, or while playing another game.
Interestingly, however, children of parents with lower incomes or less education are more likely to
say that they have heard of apps because they saw in-game advertisements.
6 to 8

MISSING THIS
LAYOUT!!!
(Choosing an App
1st page)

9 to 11

12 to 14

65%
55%

59%
50%
42%

Overall

37%
32%
27%

30%

28%

26%

21% 21% 22% 20%

21%

19%

20% 21%

17% 16% 18% 16%

17%

12%

14%

11% 11%

11%

9%

13% 12%
4% 4% 3% 4%

FRIENDS

PARENTS

CLASSMATES

ADS DURING
ANOTHER GAME

ADS ON TV
OR COMPUTER

SIBLINGS

TEACHER

OTHER FAMILY
MEMBERS

OTHER

WHO DECIDES WHICH APPS TO DOWNLOAD


It is important to note how children hear about new apps, since 70% have some say in the decision of which games
to download, whether on their own or with the guidance of a parent. Not surprisingly, parents are more likely to let
older children choose which apps to download.

OVERALL AND BY AGE

30% 36%
27%

6 to 8

15%

9 to 11

10%
16%

26%

PARENT

21%

CHILD

12 to 14

Parents are more likely to let


their sons choose which apps
to download, compared to
their daughters.

55% 55%
53% 58%

Most children have some say


in which games to download.

TOGETHER

Boys
Parents are also 30% more likely to let their sons choose
these apps on their own, compared to their daughters.
This gender disparity seems to imply either that parents
trust boys more than girls to choose appropriate content
or that parents are less concerned about the content to
which their sons are exposed. This latter explanation is
consistent with recent research that found that parents
are more likely to want child-friendly tech for girls and to
value boys platform preferences (PlayScience, 2015).
While these findings indicate that parents are more
protective of their daughters, it also means that boys are
potentially being left to download apps with more
negative content and less educational benefit.

Overall

Girls

30% 30%
29%
PARENT

OVERALL AND BY GENDER

Overall

15%

17%

13%
CHILD

55%

53%

58%
TOGETHER

CHOOSING AN APP
MOST IMPORTANT CRITERIA FOR PARENTS WHEN CHOOSING AN APP

For parents, the most important consideration when choosing an app for their child is whether
or not it focuses on skills or subjects that they want their child to work on. They also value multiple
types of engagement, which speaks to their desire for replayability, and apps from brands they
trust and/or that their children have played and enjoyed before. Parents of boys, in particular,
prioritize apps that offer multiple forms of engagement, while childrens previous experience
with the app is most important among parents of 12- to 14-year-olds.
21%

app that focuses on skills or subjects that I want my child to work on

17%

app that offers multiple types of engagement

12%

app from a brand or company that I know and trust

11%

app that I know my child will like because they have played it before

8%

app that has been recomnmended to me by family or friends

8%

app that features characters my child already knows and loves

7%

app that has great reviews in the App Store or Play Store

6%

app that will report back to me what my child has done

5%

app that offers related materials for parents and/or teachers


app that has been endorsed by experts

3%

TYPE OF APP PARENTS ARE WILLING TO DOWNLOAD

Slightly under half of parents said that they spend money on apps, though some parents are
more willing to pay than others. In particular, parents are more likely to purchase a paid app for
boys and younger children. It may be that these parents are more concerned about their children
being exposed to advertisements and so opt for paid apps to avoid this undesirable content.
BY AGE

6 to 8
53%

44%

48%

FREE

9 to 11
56%

12 to 14

BY GENDER

BOYS

53%
47%

PAID

51%

Parents of boys and


younger children are
more willing to pay
for apps.

45%

GIRLS

OVERALL

54%
48%

FREE

49%

PAID

52%

EDUCATIONAL FACTOR
PARENTS TOP CRITERIA FOR EDUCATIONAL APPS

According to parents, in order for an app to qualify as educational, it must focus on academic
skills and encourage childrens imagination and creativity. Interestingly, although parents
prioritize the academic focus of this educational definition, very few require that such apps
improve their childs performance in school or on standardized tests. Parents are also much less
concerned about these apps dealing with social skills or helping children feel comfortable with
technology.
These interpretations of educational are generally the same for all parents, though those with
girls are 9% more likely to require that these apps focus on academic skills, compared to parents
of boys. In addition, an apps cultivation of imagination and creativity becomes less important
with child age, while an apps role in childrens school performance becomes slightly more
important as children get older.

OVERALL AND BY GENDER

GIRLS

BOYS

OVERALL

THE APP FOCUSES ON ACADEMIC SKILLS


37%

40%

39%

THE APP ENCOURAGES IMAGINATION AND CREATIVITY

Parents of girls are


9% more likely to
require an academic
focus for educational
apps

25%

25%

25%

THE APP HELPS MY CHILD DO BETTER IN SCHOOL OR ON STANDARDIZED TESTS


12%

10%

11%

THE APP HELPS MY CHILD BECOME COMFORTABLE WITH TECHNOLOGY AND COMPUTING SKILLS
11%

9%

10%

THE APP FOCUSES ON SOCIAL SKILLS


9%

9%

9%

THE APP OFFERS RELATED MATERIALS FOR PARENTS AND/OR TEACHERS


2%

OVERALL AND BY AGE

6 to 8

12 to 14

9 to 11

3%

2%

OVERALL

THE APP FOCUSES ON ACADEMIC SKILLS


41%

38%

37%

39%

THE APP ENCOURAGES IMAGINATION AND CREATIVITY


26%

23%

27%

25%

THE APP HELPS MY CHILD DO BETTER IN SCHOOL OR ON STANDARDIZED TESTS


9%

12%

10%

11%

THE APP HELPS MY CHILD BECOME COMFORTABLE WITH TECHNOLOGY AND COMPUTING SKILLS
9%

10%

11%

10%

THE APP FOCUSES ON SOCIAL SKILLS


9%

10%

10%

7%

THE APP OFFERS RELATED MATERIALS FOR PARENTS AND/OR TEACHERS


2% 2%

3%

2%

EDUCATIONAL FACTOR
CHILDRENS FAVORITE APPS FOR LEARNING

The inclusion of popular apps suggests that children believe that they can learn from these
gaming experiences and that this educational component may even be a factor in their
preference toward these games.
ABCmouse.com

12.7%

Word Academy

4.1%

Trivia Crack

4.1%
3.6%

Minecraft - Pocket Edition

3.0%

ABC Alphabet Phonics


Bible for Kids

2.3%

Angry Birds

2.3%

Abby Basic Skills

1.8%

Nick Jr.

1.8%

WATCH Disney Channel

1.7%

Also on the overall Top Ten list

Children believe they can


learn from popular games
like Minecraft and Angry
Birds.

BUT

Children generally view


learning and fun as different
tasks accomplished by
separate apps.

Childrens favorite apps for learning did not really differ by gender. Both boys and girls
rated ABCmouse.com as the top game. However, while boys also listed Angry Birds, Nick
Jr., Geometry Dash, ABC Preschool Playground, and BrainPOP Jr. Movie, girls included
Candy Crush Saga, WATCH Disney Channel, and Fit Brains Trainer.
Similarly, childrens preferences did not change much with age, though 12- to 14-year-olds
ranked Trivia Crack and Word Academy above ABCmouse.com, perhaps because these
games are more challenging and include content more suitable for an older age group. This
explanation may also account for why 6- to 8-year-old children were more likely to list
television channels and programs, including Nick Jr., WATCH Disney Channel, and Super
Why! In addition to the fact that the content of these apps is clearly geared toward a
younger audience, the games also include characters with which children are familiar, which
is an important feature for young children (see pages 2, 4 and 6).

CHILDRENS IDEAL APP


CHILDRENS MUST-HAVE FEATURES FOR PERSONALLY DESIGNED APP

When children were asked to design their own app, the feature that they listed as the most
important was the ability to create their own avatar. Perhaps because children were designing
an app just for them, they valued being able to personalize the gaming experience. Interestingly,
the ability to create their own profile was much lower on the list, suggesting that children were
less interested in the social component that often accompanies such profiles and really just
wanted to immerse themselves in the game.
Children also wanted this app to involve points and rewards, sound effects and music, and
action games. They were less interested in sharing app content on social media, getting ideas for
offline activities, or including quizzes and videos. It seems that when thinking about the ideal app,
children concentrate on the basics and making sure that first and foremost the play is fun,
challenging, and action-packed.
43%
38%
37%
35%

Ability to create your own avatar


Points and rewards
Sound effects and music
Action games

31%

Ability to create your own story

31%

Cute and fun characters

26%

Ability to talk or play with other users in the app

26%

Levels that keep getting harder

26%

Puzzles

24%

Ability to create your own profile

24%

Characters you know

17%

Ideas for activities to do offline

17%

Videos

13%

Quizzes

12%

Ability to share things from the app on social media

The most important app feature for


children is the ability to create
their own avatar

CHILDRENS IDEAL APP

It is twice as important for GIRLS than


for boys to have enjoyable characters
as part of their ideal app.
Both boys and girl prioritize the ability to create
their own avatar, but for girls this feature is
superseded by the inclusion of cute and fun
characters. Indeed, for girls, characters are key.
When asked to design their ideal app, their top
three requirements are all character-focused,
whether it be characters that they already
know and love or an avatar that they can
create.

Younger children want a fun app that


features fun characters.

Children of all ages similarly rank the ability to


create an avatar at the top of their list of
requirements for their ideal app. However, their
priorities shift slightly after that point. Children
ages 6 to 8 are much more interested in
characters than are their older counterparts.
This age group is more likely to want their app
to include cute and fun characters as well as
characters that they already know and love.

BOYS are more likely than girls to


want their app to include action
games.
Boys, on the other hand, are more concerned
with the gameplay itself and are much more
likely than girls to want their app to include
action games. Similarly, they are less likely than
girls to want puzzles, quizzes, or story creation,
suggesting that boys may have a more narrow
conception of what constitutes a successful
gaming app.

Older children want a game that


challenges them.
As children get older, however, their focus shifts
to creating a challenging gaming experience.
Children between the ages of 9 and 14 rank
features such as points, rewards, and levels
that get increasingly harder higher on their list
than do younger children. Older children are
also more interested in having social
components in the game, such as creating a
profile, talking to other players, or sharing
content online.

Although children of both genders and all ages are highly interested in being able to create their own avatar,
only three of the top ten overall playful games include any kind of avatar or picture, and Minecraft is the only
app that actually allows children to customize their players. Subway Surfers allows children to unlock new
characters as they earn points, and Trivia Crack uses players existing Facebook profile pictures. The absence
of this must have among childrens favorite apps suggests that avatar customizability is not required for a
successful app, but it also presents an opportunity for developers to incorporate a unique feature that may
give them an advantage over the competition.

KEY TAKEAWAYS
For those developing playful game apps for children, this report holds many important insights for how best to
create for and appeal to this population, as well as its various subgroups. The top takeaways include:

DIVERSIFY GAMEPLAY
Childrens top apps represented a variety of forms of gaming, including strategy, narrative, action, and trivia.
Similarly, parents place great value on apps that offer multiple types of engagement.

INCLUDE LIKEABLE CHARACTERS


This is particularly applicable if you are trying to reach girls or younger children. These subgroups enjoy seeing
characters they know or fun and entertaining characters that they could learn to love.

ALLOW CHILDREN TO CUSTOMIZE


When children were asked to design their own app, the feature that they listed as the most important was the
ability to create their own avatar. Yet only one of the top ten overall playful games offers this unique feature,
suggesting a great opportunity for developers.

DONT LET GENDER BIAS GUIDE YOUR DESIGN


Girls like humor even more than boys, and boys are more socially influenced than girls those are just two examples
of facts that go against typical gender assumptions about game play.

MAKE IT ACTION-PACKED AND CHALLENGING


This is particularly applicable if you are trying to reach boys or older children. These subgroups want a gaming
experience that is exciting and that pushes them through reward systems and increasingly difficult levels.

DONT BE AFRAID OF EDUCATIONAL CONTENT


Children value a game that offers opportunities for learning. However, fun is still key; educational features should be
well integrated into the game so that they do not come at the expense of entertainment.

CONSIDER THE DEVICE


The large screens of tablets and the mobile nature of smartphones make them ideal for different types of play, and
childrens device-specific app preferences suggest that they do in fact make this distinction.

BUT ALSO CONSIDER ACCESS


Although the device on which children choose to play games does vary, most children opt for a tablet over a
smartphone, likely because children especially younger ones have greater access to, and are more likely to
personally own, tablets versus smartphones.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT AUDIENCE


Most children hear about new apps from their friends, especially as they get older, though younger children are
more likely to learn about new apps from their parents.

NEXT KIDS & FAMILY TRACK


CASUAL CONNECT TEL AVIV 2015
19 - 21 OCTOBER 2015

SAN FRANCISCO

KIDS & FAMILY TRACK SPONSORED BY

SINGAPORE

17 - 19 MAY 2016

18 - 20 JULY 2016

TEL AVIV

AMSTERDAM

19 - 21 OCT 2015

16 - 18 FEB 2016

ABOUT THE CASUAL GAMES ASSOCIATION

When it comes to the health of your business, the more things that work together, the better. Which is why the Casual
Games Association is a critical portion of the success of your company and the industry as a whole. It means that you
and your team have access to cutting-edge educational resources and are connected to thousands of other game
industry professionals, members of the press and service providers around the globe. Learn more at
http://www.cga.global
ABOUT PLAYSCIENCE

PlayScience is an innovation and development company that partners with brands to create and launch new consumer
experiences in play, learning and entertainment. The group catalyzes and creates new ways of playing and learning that
enrich the lives of consumers and their communities, while making a positive impact wherever they go.
www.playsciencelab.com @playscience

CGA.