Today, LeapFrog pulled the veil off of two handhelds aimed at edu-taining kids who are still too young for an iPod, a cellphone and maybe even a Nintendo DS. The Leapster2 is a $70 streamlined, net-connected version of the first Leapster, a chunky, ergonomic thing designed for kids ages 4-8, with new games from the Star Wars and soon-to-be-everywhere-I-can-feel-it Pixar WALL-E franchises. The cooler of the two, and an acknowledgment that LeapFrog knows its handheld competition, is the customizable ARM9-powered Didj, as in, "Did you do your homework, young man?"
The $90 Didj is aimed at "discerning" kids ages 6 to 10. It's probably the highest-resolution screen ever seen on the notoriously low-rez LeapFrog toys, a 3.2" full-color 320x240 LCD, backed by a 393MHz processor. This enables gaming opportunities from the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog—with GBAish graphics in our preview—as well as room for customization: not only can kids mod the look and feel of games, but they can, say, build spelling lists to fit their class assignments from a database of 10,000 words. (That ain't Shakespeare's compleat 24,000-word vocab, but it's a start.) Also new to Leapfrog: Mac compability, which should arrive in September.
I know, some of you think you're a bit old to be reading about LeapFrog, but many of you already have kids you're shopping for, and others have a hankering for weird stuff to crack open and play with. We're not saying go out and buy this; we are saying that if you do, to use, share with your kids or to mod the hell out of, be sure to share your experiences. [LeapFrog]
LeapFrog Introduces New Web-Connected Gaming Handhelds
Setting the New Standard in Educational Gaming, Leapster2 and Didj(TM) Provide Parents with Exclusive Access to Kids' Educational Progress
EMERYVILLE, Calif., Feb. 5 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc., a leading developer of technology-based learning products, today announced two new web-connected video game systems that are tied to the proprietary LeapFrog(R) Learning Path. The Leapster2 Learning Game System, the latest handheld in the popular Leapster(R) family, expands the gameplay online with fun activities and rewards that encourage continued play while allowing parents to see what their child is learning and share in their accomplishments. The online capabilities in the all-new Didj Custom Gaming System connect gameplay with schoolwork, allowing grade-schoolers to customize the game with spelling lists, math problems and more.
Parents can get an early peek at Leapster2, Didj and the LeapFrog Learning Path at http://leapfrog.com/gaming and http://leapfrog.com/learningpath.
"LeapFrog is the leader in educational handheld gaming and now with Leapster2 and Didj, we are offering parents and kids even more choice and capability," said Christian Cocks, vice president of gaming at LeapFrog. "Kids want to play video games, and as parents we want them to get the most from that experience. Our new Leapster2 and Didj handhelds are products that parents can feel good about and that kids can have a terrific time playing."
The Bestselling Educational Gaming Handheld Just Got Better
Four years ago LeapFrog broke ground with the original Leapster handheld, and since then nearly 5 million Leapster family hardware units and over 14 million software titles have sold in the United States. In addition to creating age-appropriate educational games, LeapFrog was the first to recognize that four- to eight-year-olds are still developing fine motor skills. Ergonomically designed to accommodate smaller hands, a bigger D-pad and larger buttons as well as an attached stylus made the Leapster handheld kid-friendly, as did offering relevant learning games that can be played with only a stylus.
The Leapster2 system offers a sleek new form for enjoying new games such as the exclusive educational game license for Star Wars: The Clone Wars or the summer 2008 Disney/Pixar blockbuster WALL E. As with the original Leapster system, the Leapster2 handheld auto-levels, adjusting games to children's particular skills and progress, so players are appropriately challenged. The Leapster2 handheld's new online connectivity allows parents a window into their child's accomplishments, while kids earn rewards to encourage continued playing and learning.
Taking Customized Learning to a New Level
When kids are ready to graduate from the Leapster system, the Didj handheld is the smart option to extend the learning. The first totally customizable educational gaming platform, the Didj system lets kids personalize the look and feel of the games, from designing their avatars to choosing background scenery, color schemes and music.
Beyond making visual customizations, parents and kids can customize the learning content on the Didj handheld, connecting gameplay with schoolwork. For example, a custom spelling list can be created from the 10,000-word database, giving kids the ability to practice for next week's test while playing the classic Sonic the Hedgehog. The Didj system supports what kids are learning in school and lets them practice skills in a fun way-through gaming.
Built for discerning six- to ten-year-olds, the Didj system offers high resolution graphics presented on a 3.2 inch LCD screen featuring 16.7 million color TFT on a 320x240 display. Perceptive players also will appreciate the processing speed (ARM 9 @ 393 MHz), which is comparable to that of other handhelds on the market today. In addition to processing game logic, the combined 32 bit ARM and 256MB Flash memories ensure high-quality, real-time audio decompression and playback.
Learning is Not One-Size-Fits-All
Also launching this summer is LeapFrog's proprietary Learning Path, a free online tool at leapfrog.com that interfaces with LeapFrog products to show parents what their child is learning and how their activities or games map back to the Scope and Sequence of educational skills that LeapFrog has always built into every product.
Based on an award-winning LeapFrog School product used by teachers across the United States to individualize assessment and instruction, each time parents connect their Leapster2 or Didj system, they can see how education comes to life for their child — the games their child has been playing, the skills they have been practicing and the progress they have been making.
This information populates each child's personalized LeapFrog Learning Path profile, empowering parents with insights into what excites their children, and letting them know where their kids may be struggling and in need of extra attention.
The Didj system will be available in the summer of 2008 with an MSRP of $89.99. The Didj system software library offers nine learning games during launch year, with an MSRP of $29.99 each. The Leapster2 handheld will be available in the summer of 2008 with an MSRP of $69.99. Five new Leapster system games will be available at the launch of the Leapster2 platform, with refreshed versions of 10 of the most popular legacy titles available; all are optimized for the Leapster2 handheld's LeapFrog Learning Path connectivity. The entire 33-title Leapster library is compatible with the full Leapster family of Learning Game Systems. All Leapster titles MSRP at $24.99.