Dubit - tBR Company of the Week!
In an old railway roundhouse, by a canal in Leeds, England, you’ll find one of the biggest kids- and teens-specific agencies in the world. Dubit is both a research and strategy consultancy, and a digital studio making games, apps, virtual worlds, VR and AR for companies ranging from CBBC and PBS Kids to LEGO, Topps, K’NEX and GoNoodle.
Dubit was established in 1999, with a remarkable distinction – the founders recruited teens to guide the company, resulting in the Guinness Book of World Records listing Dubit as having the youngest directors on record. When the company was formed, Second Life was popular, but the teen board felt the virtual world wasn’t designed for them. As a result, the company’s initial product was the first Flash-based virtual world for teens.
One very big element remains from those early days – listening to children is at the core of our work. When Dubit develops a game or app in our studio, it gets tested at every stage in our on-site Playlab. That means both our researchers and our developers and designers can watch kids at play and compare observations. They’ll note the points where children’s engagement rises or falls, where the UX or UI may need tweaking, and most of all make sure it’s fun!
Research and Strategy
Dubit’s 15-person research and strategy team includes qualitative and quantitative experts, media industry analysts, children’s media strategists, and an academic expert on the intersection of play and child development.
The primary product of the research team is Dubit Trends, a global tracker with five years of media consumption data covering 20 countries. Trends surveys a total of 16,000 2- to 18-year-olds and their parents across any 12-month period – twice yearly in the US and UK, and roughly annually in the other countries. It covers children’s device ownership and access, use patterns (when, where, how and with whom they watch and play), content and brand preferences, paths to discovery of new content, and insights into how families make spending choices.
Trends is offered as a syndicated product, but it also forms the foundation of Dubit’s bespoke research for individual companies or organizations. There’s no point in spending money for primary research to answer questions already covered in Trends, so that’s almost always our first stop when we study a market, a product, a program, or a strategic plan for a client.
Trends and the analyses it generates are also the basis for most of my conference talks and articles. Dubit loves to give away data and insights, knowing there’s lots more beneath the surface that will be interesting and useful to specific companies.
In fact, we conduct some research simply in order to be thought leaders, often in cooperation with academic institutions, and give away the reports. You can find our reports on preschool children and tablet use, children and virtual reality, young people’s video habits and preferences, play with technology toys, and how brands can benefit from Roblox.
Dubit’s team is constantly at work on bespoke research studies for toy, game, media and other companies. This often includes brand and content development, market opportunities, or strategic guidance. We’ve done thousands of hours of testing with video content, games and toys, developing engagement benchmarks so that each new product or piece of content can be compared to others that are similar.
With COVID restrictions, we’re unable to do our usual in-home visits or lab testing, but we’ve developed qualitative research methods that can be conducted at distance. These include The Clickroom, a 3D virtual research lab where subjects from anywhere in the world customize their own avatars and interact with Dubit researchers, other subjects, and client representatives.
Dubit’s 70-person studio is divided into a Games Team and an Apps and Education team. Each builds for a variety of devices and platforms, including tech toys, VR and AR.
Examples of innovative creations from Dubit’s studio include:
Kart Kingdom – a virtual world built for PBS Kids Digital, in which young people customize their Kart to travel through the constantly-changing world playing games related to PBS program brands. The world is designed to build systems thinking. Kart Kingdom closed in late 2020 after a run of over five years, developing a fanbase that created its own wiki and that continued playing well into their teenage years.
Go Noodle Games – Go Noodle is a wildly successful schools product, with videos that get 14 million children up and exercising in 4 out of 5 US classrooms. Having discovered that kids wanted to take the experience home with them, Dubit created a set of movement games that use the tablet camera to track the child’s motion and incorporate it into the game.
Match Attax – Topps is the foremost trading card company in the world, producing cards and collectibles for global sports and entertainment franchises. Topps asked Dubit to create an interactive experience that mirrors how young people collect, trade and play with physical trading cards. Kids scan their card packs and receive special digital cards to enhance their collections. They could then enter a virtual stadium and challenge friends to a Match Attax game to win earning points and exclusive cards. The UK Premier League Match Attax reached #1 in the app store, and is being expanded to other football leagues.
K’NEX – Riding a roller coaster in virtual reality is fun, but doesn’t necessarily lend itself to repeat play. When K’NEX introduced its line of physical coaster kits, it engaged Dubit to build an accompanying “Ride It” app. Beyond translating the purchased physical kit into virtual space, the app allowed kids to design their own coaster on a smartphone screen and instantly “ride” it in Cardboard VR. This offers an infinitely repeatable play pattern – building and testing new courses.
These are just a few examples of the products we’ve created for companies worldwide. We’d love to show you more! Despite the pandemic, Dubit’s research and creative teams are working at full speed. Whether you have a challenge or a creative concept you’d like to explore, we’d love to connect. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Kleeman is SVP of Global Trends for Dubit. He’s a 35-year children’s media professional, having previously run the American Center for Children and Media. David’s role is to put “story” to Dubit’s insights, writing for a variety of publications and representing Dubit at events worldwide (virtually, for the moment).