Video games aren't always suitable for young kids -- some decidedly so. But try explaining to a five-year-old why the Xbox is a grownup device and you'll end up in an endless spiral of "but why?" LeapFrog's new LeapTV aims to change that, with a gaming console built just for kids age three to eight.
LeapTV offers younger kids some of the same hallmark capabilities of grown-up game consoles: the wireless controller starts in a classic two-hand layout, or flips open to a one-handed wand that works a lot like a Nintendo Wiimote that kids use as a pointer, a wand, or a sword for slashing through jungle vines (but definitely not opponents, I bet). And a TV-top camera offers Xbox Kinect-like body tracking, putting players on-screen and capturing their dance moves, arm waves and karate chops as they play.
Watching a LeapFrog engineer demonstrate the LeapTV, it's clear that the console doesn't pack the same kind of juice as an Xbox or Wii. The controller and gesture-control interfaces worked well, but the gaming experience itself looked more like a big-screen LeapPad kiddie tablet than a hardcore gaming rig. Notably, the gesture tracking camera doesn't seem to try too hard to distinguish between players -- during our demo, the camera mistakenly sensed someone walking behind the player, clearing a target that the intended player never reached for. Maybe encouraging your kids to play as "one player with four arms" is a teaching point?
LeapFrog says LeapTV will offer a library of over 100 proprietary games and videos available via game cartridge or download. Each game is curated by LeapFrog to offer age-appropriate educational fun. Assumedly, the killshot is a developmental target that lands somewhere after eight years old.
LeapTV will hit shelves in time for the 2014 holiday season at $US150 for the system, $US30 for each game cartridge, with downloadable games and apps starting at $US5. With a wireless Wii-like remote and body-tracking camera, it tries to give younger kids the same sort of gaming capabilities that their older siblings likely enjoy. Whether that's enough to distract little Billy or Suzie from Call of Modern Theft 6 is yet to be seen.