Move Over Wii U, LeapFrog Has A New Console

Children today are over-privileged. When I was a kid, gaming didn’t involve a controller or flashy visuals; we had to get creative to fend off boredom. Call of Duty, for example, was holding in a number two until you were about to burst. Tomb Raider was delving into the depths of my parents closet, and Dead or Alive was poking roadkill with a stick. We played games that, by today’s fancy standards, would have parents arrested for gross child negligence. Those were different times, though. And LeapFrog Enterprises, creators of the — you guessed it — Leapster learning system, are well-aware of the paradigm shift in children’s entertainment.

Gone are the days of ‘hide-n-seek, ‘freeze-tag’ and ‘is mommy too drunk to notice $20 missing from her purse’. Kids today demand a constant stream of entertainment, and there’s nothing more entertaining than transforming your living room into a playground or jungle or whatever kids do these days. Introducing the LeapTV, the latest in borrowed ideas and refined mechanics. Built from the ground-up with a child’s ineptitude in mind, the console boasts a motion-sensing camera and unique, kid-friendly gamepad.

With a two year development cycle, and education-oriented system designed to adapt to children’s capabilities, it’s not all about exploiting the Wii’s success in the casual market. Kids will be able to explore three game modes with the LeapTV, each offering an engaging experience for ages three to eight.

The first, Body Motion, will capture kids’ movements with the motion-sensor and bring their flailing shenanigans to the big screen. The second, Pointer Play, is all about pretending your adult-toy looking controller is a machete, and chopping at various invisible tribesmen/ninjas/fruit/ex-girlfriends. Last but not least, the third and (probably) not entirely frustrating mode is Classic Control. Sporting the bizarrely shaped, foldable plastic wand, tykes will be able to manipulate on-screen happenings with limited input.

The LeapTV will launch with over 100 games, ranging from $5 downloadable titles to $30 physical copies. The console itself has a price tag of $150, positioning it right between the Ouya and Wii U. Not too shabby for an interactive toy that could potentially keep your kids from driving you to divorce or calling Child Services on bogus diddle charges. And with education as its primary focus, it serves enough purpose to justify a purchase.

According to LeapFrog director Dr. Jody Sherman LeVos, LeapTV was a necessary evolutionary step forward. There’s not enough in the way of games for kids — nothing rating appropriate, anyway. The LeapTV is looking to fill that spot, equipped with the latest tools to sharpen kids’ minds and give them a proper workout.

My take:

As far as I can tell, from the expletive peppered screams and muffled nonsense in the background of every online match, plenty of kids play videogames already. Is there a need for a child-dedicated console? No. Is it a bad idea? Not at all. While it would be smarter to produce kid-friendly games for existing consoles, there’s always the possibility that those games will fail to make an impact. Parents don’t associate PlayStation or Xbox with Barney and Teletubbies. That said, I hope LeapTV finds success. Anything that keeps kids from doing drugs is good, yo.