For over 50 years, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair has celebrated creative storytelling from all corners of the world and this year’s event was no exception. PRELOADED went to sunny Italy as proud winners of Best AR (together with Within) for A Brief History of Amazing Stunts at the Bologna Ragazzi Digital Awards.

As part of the fair’s growing digital focus, the Kids Want Mobile conference gathered international publishers, broadcasters and developers in Bologna to explore what’s next for kids technology. Oscar reflects on a day full of insights, and three trends in particular, that point to an industry increasingly thinking of play as a service.

1. With great power comes great responsibility

Family marketing experts KB&B kicked off the event by presenting their extensive research into kids’ digital behaviours. The short summary is that playtime and screen time is more closely linked than ever and parents are aware of it (90% of families now have digital rules at home). The struggle is real.

To help parents and developers understand what makes a ‘good’ app experience new initiatives have emerged to tackle the question on an industry-wide level. UX expert Chris Lindgren spoke about Designing for Children’s Rights and how this organisation works with UNICEF to integrate children’s rights in the development of tech around the world.

Throughout the event developers showcased products that help to inform children’s learning development. The responsibility to deliver and support quality screen time experiences is reflected across the industry.

2. One subscription can’t rule them all

The premium model was for a long time the gold standard for monetising kids apps. However, with the ever-growing competition in the app stores, many developers have embraced a mindset of serving a smaller, but more loyal, following.

Jason Krogh, founder and CEO of Sago Mini, shared his team’s journey from a premium to subscription model and how it has impacted all parts of their company. The shift has seen Sago Mini World attracting a smaller paid customer base, compared to the catalogue of premium apps, but the life-time value of each customer has more than doubled.

With parents asked to pay for numerous subscriptions, how sustainable is this business model is for kids publishers? Jason made the comparison with book and magazine publishing; rather than expanding your audience reach through new titles, tap into the needs of one community and serve it well.

Sago Word Mini collects all their games on one subscription platform.

3. It’s all connected

Apple and Google’s recent streaming announcements didn’t go unnoticed. Much like Netflix & Spotify, gamers will soon get accustomed to a new all-you-can-play model, across all platforms. 

The idea of play moving into a ‘transmedia’ world was highlighted by several speakers. Joseph Knowles from Hatch talked about the power that 5G will have on new generations growing up in a world where they can seamlessly move between games, toys and movies.

Marc Goodchild from Turner showcased Gumball VIP, another example of a transmedia game that allows users to play along with the live broadcast of the Nickelodeon show. The challenge for future developers will be to create experiences that connect with users wherever they might play.

Trends of transmedia users, responsible app design and close community engagement will require publishers, and play, to get more service-minded. This doesn’t mean that high quality content and amazing user experiences will have to take a backseat in future product development – great stories are always required to find an audience. As Joseph Knowles comfortably put it, ‘kids don’t play technology, they play games’.

Gumball VIP uses audio watermarking to connect app users with the live show.

Interested in what the future of play means for you and your business or brand? Get in touch directly to

Read more about Wonderscope here, winner of Best AR at the Digital Ragazzi Award.

Phil Stuart

Phil is PRELOADED's founder and Executive Creative Director. He is passionate about the possibility space created by emerging and converging technologies, and inventing new forms of play with purpose.