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Jeff Kinney has been extremely successful creating a kids media brand with his books and movies in The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.
He’s continuing that effort as creative director for the newly created StoryArc Media brand, a kid-focused entertainment company that will create interactive entertainment and educational content. The brand will pull together a variety of existing properties associated with Kinney.
Sandbox Partners will own StoryArc, and Kinney and longtime game executive Jen MacLean will run it.
The new brand embraces the idea that the more students read for fun, the better they do in school and eventually in life. StoryArc Media was formerly part of Family Education Network (FEN), which reaches over 25 million kids, parents and teachers each month.
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“As a storyteller in the non-digital world, I find the best storytelling is done in video games,” said Kinney, in an interview with GamesBeat. “Grown-up games like Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption are not appropriate for kids. We have an opportunity to create sophisticated storytelling for kids in an interactive, digital fashion.”
Sandbox Partners, an investment company with former Viacom and Pearson executives, acquired the StoryArc assets and brands from Pearson. It is investing in these brands to make them become global brands.
“What makes StoryArc different is we want to create story-based entertainment wherever a kid is engaging with entertainment,” said StoryArc Media President Jen MacLean in an interview. “Whether that is in front of a computer, on a platform, a digital tablet, in front of the TV. We believe that stories help engage kids in a way that no other entertainment can.”
The entertainment can be interactive, but they are not necessarily calling them games.
“Poptropica is a great example as a kids virtual world,” MacLean said. “At its heart, it has 40 tropical islands that are all self-contained stories. They have a plot, a hero, a villain. We take the systems that game designers would recognize and combine them with self-contained stories that allow kids to be the hero.”
Some of the most popular digital youth brands already under the StoryArc Media umbrella include Poptropica: a multiplayer online adventure game in which kids explore a chain of story-based islands, travel back in time, battle monsters, solve mysteries, complete quests and encounter their favorite characters from literature (Wimpy Kid, Charlie Brown, Big Nate).
Created by Kinney, Poptropica has more than 10 million registered players worldwide. Since it was created in 2008, players have visited the islands in Poptropica more than 1 billion times.
Another StoryArc brand is Funbrain, a destination for teachers and students looking for educational games since 1997. Created for kids preschool through eighth grade, Funbrain offers more than 100 engaging interactive games that develop academic skills, plus online books and comics.
StoryArc Media has published several must-read books and graphic novel series that capture both the avid and the reluctant reader alike, including: Poptropica: Mystery of the Map; and Galactic Hot Dogs: The Wiener Strikes Back.
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