Plug-in Media is a digital media company that specialises in delivering interactive entertainment experiences for the children and families audience. We make games, apps and browser-based interactive experiences for a range of clients in the broadcast sector such as the BBC, Turner Broadcasting, Nickelodeon and Sesame Street. Our clients are generally broadcasters, production companies and licensing companies, based across the globe.
The company was founded in 2003 initially as a one and then two-man band, working out of attic. In 2007, we expanded to a team of 4 supported by freelancers, but it wasn’t until 2009 that we really grew up. We are now a team of 14 working out of a busy 2-floor studio in Brighton’s North Laine. The company has seen significant year-on-year growth throughout the recession and our work has received a deluge of awards and nominations including two BAFTAs in 2009 and 2010.
Agility is fundamental to our approach to business. We’ve made a name for ourselves by creating outstanding, playful and immersive online experiences for pre-schoolers and this continues to be a major focus of the business, however where any technological product is concerned it’s essential to move with the times. We used to just develop in Flash however nowadays it seems that every project demands a different technical skillset. We’re currently running live projects using Flash, Unity, Air and Objective C. It can be difficult to plan for but our technical team thrives on new challenges and so far everyone has really enjoyed getting to grips with the new technological landscape.
In such a competitive market, innovation continues to be a fundamental requirement and we spend a significant amount of R&D time playing around with new creative ideas and technology. This inevitably filters down into our project work. Some of the projects we’re most proud of in the past year have emerged directly from the Plug-in labs – in particular our specialist development of webcams and motion control technology – see: AirBrush for the Tate Gallery. With all our projects it’s always our ambition for the creativity and technical innovation to work so well together that they become invisible to the user: it’s never about aligning ourselves with one technology over another – it’s about delivering the best possible user experience on whichever device they’re on! Until the past year this has predominantly been browser-based desktop experiences – however, now we’re really starting to see the impact of mobile – both phones and tablets – even on 2 year olds!
We make a lot of content for the pre-school audience and have made a particular specialism of translating linear, broadcast IP into interactive experiences. This has inevitably led us to develop specialist knowledge of how small children interact with digital devices. Our two most recent projects for CBeebies are very finely tuned to meet the precise requirements of exact demographics within the pre-school age range.
Numtums was designed for a core audience of 2-3 year olds – so we created an online experience that could be enjoyed by a grown-up and child simultaneously. The 25 individual interactive toys we made can each be set up by the parent, and completed by the child. Of course they can also be enjoyed alone, with all the interaction possible with only the spacebar.
Tree Fu Tom is targeted at an older demographic of 4-6 year olds – and hence uses much more traditional gaming dynamics and approaches to interaction. However, the project was also originated out of a desire to meet the needs of children with movement disorders such as dyspraxia and to meet this ambition we were able to implement and fine-tune our motion control webcam technology. Kids follow a series of moves in their webcams in order to replicate the central character’s ‘tree fu’ moves. If they follow correctly they’ll activate a real-time magical effect – it’s wonderful to see them jumping around in front of their computers as opposed to being sat rigid with a keyboard and mouse!
Of course our touch-screen projects for phones and tablets are moving our approach to pre-school interaction in a new direction entirely – and it’s a great to finally be able to design experiences around a much more intuitive interaction approach.
It’s not just British preschoolers that are familiar with our work. We’ve worked with broadcasters in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Israel, the Arabic Gulf, Australia, France and the USA to localize and deliver the interactive experiences we make to the broadest possible audience. This led last year to 39% of our turnover being generated from overseas sales. We think it’s a fantastic British success story that there is such an international hunger for services from the UK’s interactive content sector
There are plenty of opportunities to grow and expand the services side of the company but our main focus in the coming year is to try to develop some of our own IP. We have a slate of dynamic ideas that are focused on creating the next big story in children’s media from a digital start. We’re not interested in becoming a television or animation company – we think that great stories come from anywhere – and can live on many different media platforms. Kids know that – and that’s why we feel that children’s content is so full of opportunity right now.