Trusted, yes. Loved, not so much. jumpstart.com, part of Knowledge Adventure, Inc. makes fantastic products that my almost eight year-old son loves and has loved for years. Their grade-specific products combine games with learning, with ideas of community and friendship, and they are just cool. But when I mention jumpstart to friends, I always do so with a strong warning. The way they make you pay for their products is a disaster, which is why I love to hate them.
The rules for kids computer games are pretty similar to what we expect from news, sports, and other internet content sites – there’s a lot that’s free, and then there’s a level at which you have to pay. Some sites are more giving than others in that sense (Disney ToonTown and Pirates of the Caribbean are both great with free stuff, for example), but those are the rules.
So when I first saw Jumpstart at the toy store, I bought their “First Grade” program because my son was starting first grade and I thought some educational software would be great. I honestly don’t remember exactly how much I paid for it, but it was more than ten and less than 20 dollars, which seemed like a decent deal for educational software, but not crazy cheap. Then when we installed the software, almost immediately we realized the game wouldn’t work until we subscribed online and decided whether we wanted to pay the monthly fee or the annual fee. So in “buying” it at the toy store, what I really bought was the ability to pay more?!
Annoyed, I went ahead and subscribed and started to bark about it to some of my friends. Then, if that weren’t enough I learned that “installing” the software on my laptop was only part of the bargain. It won’t work unless the CD is in the machine AND the computer is connected to the internet. Not only is this a drag, but since my son spends part of his time with his mother (not such a rarity), unless we each bought the software, the CD would have to go back and forth between us so he could keep playing it.
I am here to tell you, I think Knowledge Adventure Inc. would sell a lot more software if it solved these three problems:
1) Don’t make people pay for it twice. No one else does that. Against the rules.
2) Don’t require the CD to be in the computer to play it. No one else does that. Against the rules.
3) Don’t require a persistent internet connection for a game that comes on a CD. For internet only games like Disney’s ToonTown, I expect that, but one of the reasons I picked up the CD in the first place was so we could use it untethered.
My son loves your products, as do I, but these three things are annoying and the only organizations I can think of that can annoy their customers and expect repeat business are government organizations like the Internal Revenue Service.
My work focuses on outcomes, “what” is being done, and in this case “what” we are doing is educating our kids. At a time when education is in tough shape in this country, your products are so great for kids in helping them learn while learning computers, I ask you to please rethink “how” your billing and usage models are designed so more kids can learn using your great products. When you do that, I am willing to bet that your Sell Products “what” will perform a lot better. . .