Interview With Originator Inc. — Creators of Endless Alphabet

Endless AlphabetEndless Alphabet by Originator Inc. has proven to be one of the most successful Apps for children. TheAppleGoogle featured it in our Top 5 Educational Apps for Children. Greatly praised by parents for its fun take on learning new words, Endless Alphabet combines fantastic animation, bright colours and great sound effects to keep the kids interested. Other Apps by Originator, like Endless Reader and Mr Potato Head Create & Play have also met with similar success. TheAppleGoogle spoke to Rex O. Ishibashi, CEO of Originator, about the popularity of their Apps, their inspiration and much more, and even got a sneak peek of a new App.

TheAppleGoogle: Firstly, TheAppleGoogle would like to congratulate you on the success and popularity of Endless Alphabet. Did you expect the App to be so popular among parents?

Rex O. Ishibashi: We test all of our apps with both kids and parents.  The educational value of Endless Alphabet certainly strikes a chord with parents, and the entertainment value with kids, makes the app a “win-win” with families.  We also design our products to have multi-generational appeal.  The early Pixar movies certainly were a high bar in accomplishing that, and we strive for the same even though our products are targeted at an even younger age than those movies.

TheAppleGoogle: What was the inspiration behind it?

Rex O. Ishibashi: There were several key inspirations that drove us to the app design.  First, was a focus on “stretch” words that could create million-dollar family moments.  Rather than using the word “big”, for example, we included the word “gargantuan”.  They are words that are fun to say and use, and provide a different experience than the words (like big) that we already know the kids will learn at home or in school.

Another key inspiration was bringing letters and words to life.  Having a letter, wiggling under your finger, and sounding out its phonics, brings fun and characters to the letters and words that are more often static, and lifeless in their presentation.  This ultimately makes the learning process more entertaining and something kids want to do.

TheAppleGoogle: When Endless Alphabet was first released it was free but then it was turned into a paid App. Although as a mother of a toddler I think $6.99 is absolutely worth it, but that kind of price tag can put some people off. What was the main reason behind making it a paid App and how hard was that decision?

Rex O. Ishibashi: We’ve tested a number of business models and ultimately arrived at two models:  paid apps when there isn’t significant new content to produce (Endless Alphabet) and “free-to-trial” apps when there are significant new content packs we release that have a real incremental cost that we have to charge for (Endless Reader).  Both models do work, and ultimately we are a for-profit business that employs world-class artists and engineers who have to be paid for their work.  On average, our apps are used once every 3 days (10 times per month) and are used for a year or longer, so the price certainly is in line with the value and experience we’re delivering.

TheAppleGoogle: Do you get many parents contacting you with ideas and suggestions for new features or even for a new App?

Rex O. Ishibashi: We receive ideas and suggestions every day, and we appreciate the feedback and implement the suggestions that will make our products better for the majority (rather than the few).  We also test all of our products extensively with both kids and their parents.  You have to listen to your users to make the best products, and we have dual-customers in both kids and their parents.

TheAppleGoogle: Endless Alphabet has been equally well received on Google Play. As a developer, can you tell us how different it was developing for both Android and iOS platforms?

Rex O. Ishibashi: The development itself is ultimately “similar” for both platforms.  The key differences are (i) the openness of Google Play with over 5,000 different models of devices vs. the relatively few/controlled devices that Apple releases, and (ii) that the audience demographics are somewhat distinct, and so the business model has to be considered uniquely for each platform.  One example is Endless Alphabet which is a paid app on the Apple App Store, but a “free-to-trial” app on Google Play with an in-app purchase to unlock the entire app.

TheAppleGoogle: Many developers have said that App Store is stricter than Google Play and has more stringent rules. What was your experience when dealing with Apple?

Rex O. Ishibashi: Generally, that’s true, but the strictness of Apple is really about maintaining a quality bar that’s consistent with what they deliver themselves in their devices.  We appreciate that and I think they appreciate our own attention to quality and the details that matter.

TheAppleGoogle: Are you working on a new App? Is there any chance of a sneak peek?

Rex O. Ishibashi: We’re working right now on Endless Numbers.  It will foster delight and learning with numbers, as Endless Alphabet and Endless Reader does with letters, words and sentences.  It should be out next month, and we’re very excited how it’s shaping up.

TheAppleGoogle: Will Originator continue to work only on children’s Apps or is there a plan to branch out?

Rex O. Ishibashi: We’re committed to kids… for now.  We have Endless Numbers coming out soon, and another Endless title (Endless Wordplay) that’s fully designed and the development for which has already started.  We’ll continue doing kids apps as long as we have the ideas and inspiration to continue innovating.  We love that we’re making a meaningful difference for kids and families.

TheAppleGoogle: Lastly, what advise would you give other developers who want to create a children’s App as successful as Endless Alphabet?

Rex O. Ishibashi: A few points that we live by:

  • Do it if you’re inspired and passionate about it.  It’s not different than teachers we’ve all had in school who inspired and cared (vs. were phoning it in for a paycheck and a pension).  Kids notice the difference.
  • Don’t pander and talk down to kids.  Adults do it far too often with education, entertainment and nutrition.  Kids deserve better than they generally get.
  • Think beyond “digital schoolwork”.  We’re not trying to recreate or replace school, but educate+entertain in ways that are innovative and in ways we’d want to be if we could be kids again… ;)

You can download Endless Alphabet for $6.99 from the App Store and free from Google Play.