Kids today can barely take their eyes away from video games, but it’s the parents’ duty to be aware of what kind of games their kids are playing and for how long. To every parent reading this interview: if your kids enjoy playing games, get them any Avokiddo app, you can’t go wrong with them whichever you choose.
GameBuz - Your company was founded in 2012. What inspired you back then to start your own game development company?
Elpida Voulgari - For many years before founding Avokiddo, we were developing educational applications for museums, institutions and public events (e.g., Youth Olympic games), gaining valuable experience in creating educational content for large-scale touch screen devices.
Watching how naturally and keenly kids interacted with touchscreens while being actively engaged in learning, we thought that this was the way to go. Around this time, Apple announced the first iPad, and the first educational apps started populating the App Store. We started Avokiddo with the vision to create top quality educational apps that kids and parents would love.
GameBuz - The Gaming Industry is huge, and a lot of smaller game development companies get overshadowed by the big ones. Where did you get the idea to make something this special that stands out from the crowd?
Elpida Voulgari - In the 8 years that we've been developing apps for kids, we've come to realize that being successful in the app universe is not always about having a huge budget and unlimited resources. Small, self-funded studios can very well manage to establish brand awareness, a trusted fan base, and a strong presence on the stores. It's all about delivering quality products. It's as simple as that.
At Avokiddo, we always try to come up with fresh and original concepts that engage kids in playful discovery. Kids want to play games on tablets, whereas parents wish their kids used them for learning. So, the challenge for us is to make both sides happy. And we do that by seamlessly blending educational value in fun and engaging gameplays.
I believe one of the things that make us stand out is our consistency throughout the years. We stick to our principles and do not compromise quality. We honestly care for the kids that play our apps, and we feel responsible for offering them the best quality possible. Our apps do not display any 3rd party ads and do not collect or share any kind of personal information. We truly value our customers' privacy and digital safety.
It seems to me that kids can be a little picky about which games they play as much as they can be with their food, for example. Avokiddo succeeded in making apps that suit every child’s desire; they’re colorful, entertaining, and above all, educational.
GameBuz - How do you come up with concepts and mechanics for your games? How do you measure the difficulty level, how do you know the puzzles won't be too hard for the kids?
Elpida Voulgari - Concepts and gameplay details for our games come after months of discussions and brainstorming. We play a lot of games ourselves and also observe kids playing – both in the physical and digital world – to gain insights about what they enjoy and how they learn. From an early stage in development, we test the app with kids of various ages to ensure that the gameplay, interface, and mechanics are age appropriate, intuitive, and fun. We also rely a lot on our past experiences and take into account the customer feedback we receive for our existing games.
GameBuz - Thinkrolls and its sequels are definitely your most notable titles, and you have the awards to prove it. Now, on June 12th, Thinkrolls are rolling to space. What are your predictions? Do you think it will be as successful as the previous Thinkrolls games?
Elpida Voulgari - The apps from Thinkrolls series are undoubtedly our most popular and best-selling apps. They have been prominently featured on the app stores, handpicked as "Editor's Choice" by Google Play and have won numerous awards including the 2016 Google Play Award for "Best Families App". They earned a place in USA Today's 10 Top Kids Apps and have been featured in many other major media outlets.
The Thinkrolls apps are designed around our belief that children have unlimited potential and are capable of achieving great things if they are creatively motivated and challenged. These carefully crafted logic puzzles promote learning driven by curiosity, and push the limits of kids' intelligence and understanding of cause and effect.
We are happy to have established a very loyal Thinkrolls fan base. We're frequently contacted by parents, teachers, and kids asking for more puzzles and new sequels. So, we are pretty confident that Thinkrolls Space will have the same success as its predecessors.
We believe this sequel is the best Thinkrolls yet. It is an out-of-this-world mix of logic puzzles and platform gaming for the whole family. Kids will love guiding a cast of oddball aliens through seven bizarre planets and use their problem-solving skills to solve over 200 levels of fun-filled puzzles. They'll meet goo monsters, bleeping robots, spring-like soprano aliens, monsters who love munching moon cheese – and confront all kinds of traps and challenges.
GameBuz - Which of the games you made would you say is your favorite? Are your kids playing them as well? What is their favorite?
Elpida Voulgari - Every game we develop becomes our favorite until the next one arrives. We put a lot of effort and love into them, and each one has something unique to offer. One of our favorite and most innovative apps is DNA Play, that introduces kids to the basic concepts of DNA and the magnificence of its mechanics through a fun-to-play, interactive experience. DNA Play has amassed an impressive collection of awards, including the App Store's "Best of 2015".
Our kids are, of course, among the first to try our games, and they also give us valuable feedback. They are our biggest fans and sometimes our most harsh critics as well. My son of 9 loves the Thinkrolls series, as he adores the challenge and takes pride when he solves a difficult puzzle using his problem-solving skills. My 5-year old niece loves Avokiddo Emotions. It's a pure joy to watch her giggle every time she dresses up the animals in funny hats and costumes or watches their funny faces as she interacts with them.
GameBuz - What are your plans for the future? Are there any possibilities to implement your games in the school system?
Elpida Voulgari - Our goal is to continue creating quality apps and maintain this golden balance between educational value and fun, keeping Avokiddo on the top as one of the most well-established and recognized developers in the kids’ app market.
Although our apps are not specifically designed to fit the school curriculum, they are nonetheless used in many schools as part of their STEM, coding, and language learning activities. They are also extensively used by Speech-Language Pathologists and Occupational Therapists to help kids with executive functioning, following directions, identifying emotions, understanding cause and effect, etc.
World Health Organization's decision to consider gaming addiction as a mental health disorder was a big topic recently. Some people agreed with it; some thought it was ridiculous. I wanted to know what was Avokiddo's opinion on that, and if they thought kids could develop violent behavior because of the games they're playing.
Elpida Voulgari - The gaming industry has evolved tremendously during recent years. Gaming experiences have become increasingly immersive, and it is a fact that a lot of kids but also adults spend hours in front of screens, to the point that gaming takes precedence over their daily activities and life interests. Especially for kids, this can become a very serious problem with negative effects on their development and mental health.
On the other hand, technology can also be empowering for kids, offering tools that help them learn in fun and engaging ways, express their creativity, and develop essential life skills – in ways that wouldn't be possible in the physical world. Like all aspects of our lives, screen time needs to be balanced and thoughtful. Parents not only need to set healthy time limits but also ensure that their kids digital experiences are age appropriate and meaningful.
As ethical game developers but also as parents, we feel a great responsibility towards our young audience and we take extra care to always provide them with content that is safe, age-appropriate, and enriching. Our apps are completely violent-free, without 3rd party ads or in-app consumables, and completely respect the user's privacy.
GameBuz - What was the most challenging problem you had to deal with so far?
Elpida Voulgari - One of the greatest challenges we had to face as a self-funded, small-size company was to establish ourselves in a very competitive market. Monetization has always been a challenge for us, as we've always followed the premium model, having to compete with the vast amount of freemium apps that flood the market every day. It's also challenging, but intriguing for us to keep pushing the boundaries and setting the bar higher in every new kids app we develop. Because at the end of the day, this is what makes Avokiddo stand out.
GameBuz - What was the most rewarding part of your work in the Gaming Industry?
Elpida Voulgari - By far, the most rewarding part of our work is the heartwarming reviews, messages, and videos we receive from parents and educators. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing that we bring joy to little kids while also contributing to the enhancement of their skills and mental abilities. We are also deeply touched when parents of children with special needs reach out to us, saying how much our apps are helping them.
GameBuz - Do you have any advice for young developers entering the Gaming Industry?
Elpida Voulgari - Do your research but try to find your own voice, stick to your plan and personal values, don't jeopardize quality for the sake of profit. Be patient – success doesn't come overnight, and it is not going to be an easy road. It takes some hard work and a long time of preparation, design, development and testing. There will be for sure some disappointments along the way. But what we have discovered through our years of involvement in the kids gaming industry is that quality apps that respect the needs of both the parents and the young audiences will find a way to emerge and establish themselves.
GameBuz - Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
Elpida Voulgari - I wish that more parents take the time and effort to search for good quality apps, apps that do not serve just as a distraction, but ones that can really provide their little ones with meaningful and rewarding experiences.
We'd also like to share a promise that here at Avokiddo, we'll always strive to develop apps that fully respect our customers, their needs, and expectations. Games that are fun, educational, and safe. Nothing can top the smiling face of a happy kid – and it is those smiles that have been and will always be our driving force and motivation.
The dedication Avokiddo has to make a kid’s experience with video games not only fun, but turn it into something that can help their development, especially for kids with special needs, got me a little teary-eyed. Their cause deserves as much support as we can give, so go check out their apps, help them make your kids’ experiences even more amazing!