Interview with Kaplan, creators of the new SAT prep software for the DS

As a true testament to the growth of the interactive entertainment market, Kaplan, developers of SAT and ACT prep software for the PC, and Aspyr Media, a videogame publisher specializing in porting titles to the PC and Mac, have announced they are working together to bring SAT prep software to the Nintendo DS. I recently got a chance to speak with Kaplan’s Director of SAT and ACT programs Kristen Campbell on the recent announcement, crossovers (GTA?) and everyone’s favorite finger-pointin silverback, Jack Thompson.

Gamernode: Educational games have been around for awhile in Japan and Europe, more recently in the U.S, but to my knowledge the industry has never really seen prep software for a major standardized test on a videogame console, could you explain your new software, what makes it unique, and how it came to be?

Kaplan: At Kaplan, our focus has been on test prep since 1938 and we absolutely recognize that how students learn and how students prepare for exams, such as the SAT, has changed significantly since the days the company was first founded. One of the things we look to do is to try to continue to evolve our courses and really make them as convenient and approachable for students as possible. In addition to our traditional classroom and tutoring programs, which we continue to believe are excellent forms of test prep, we’ve also looked at new and innovative ways to reach out to students and embrace the technology that is out there and really integrate the test prep more into a teenagers lifestyle. We’ve worked with Apple on an itunes project, we’ve worked with manga and comic books, and this is our first foray into the videogame industry, which you know is huge in itself.

I think what’s unique about this is this is the first attempt at really combining a fun and innovative game for teenagers with test preparation. It’s combining the best of both worlds. Our partner Aspyr has a great track record of making and developing really fun and innovative games and Kaplan is able to bring to the table what it does best, test preparation for the SATs. This is the first attempt on the market to combine that and we really believe that students will find that this is a great tool whether you’re just starting the process or already in the thick of things. It’s a great complement to what you are already doing.

Gamernode: Do you plan on maybe expanding to a younger audience, maybe people as young as Kindergarteners?

Kaplan: This product is really targeted towards teenagers in high school looking to apply to college. The content is preparation for the SAT. While there are certainly applications for folks who are younger and older and everyone can learn and benefit from it. Ultimately it is targeted at teenagers looking to take the SAT.

Gamernode: In my area, we don’t have the SATs, we have the ACTs. Do you plan on expanding the software to include the ACTs?

Kaplan: At this point, the first foray is with the SAT and we are continuing to explore options and absolutely recognize the ACT as it is a very important test in the college admissions process. There have been no decisions yet but it’s absolutely up for discussion.

Gamernode: With the exponential growth of the gaming industry and the lack of this kind of software, would you consider this as a potential major revenue stream for Kaplan?

Kaplan: I think it’s important for us to develop tools and products that are helpful to students. We think it’s additive and are looking to launch towards the end of August and we think it’s going to be popular with students and families.

Gamernode: You said it was coming out around late August, have you chosen any distribution methods? Will we see this right next to Mario and Sonic at the Olympics in the aisle, or will it be in its own educational section.

Kaplan: At this stage of the game, there’s been no formal announcement yet in terms of how distribution will be set up, that said; we expect it to be distributed in all of the traditional methods.

Gamernode: If someone bought a DS for this piece of software and only played this piece of software, would you call them a gamer?

Kaplan: I qualify myself as an SAT test expert and definitely not a gaming expert so far be it for me to put focus in the same category, that said, our goal here is absolutely to produce a product that provides test prep but also provides a great gaming experience as well. I’ll leave it to all of you to qualify if this is gamer worthy.

Gamernode: Good decision. Have you considered including any cameos from famous videogame characters or something along the lines of Kaplan and Rockstar games presents.

Kaplan: Well this is our first foray into it and at this stage no formal plans have been made to combine those efforts but we’ll see what happens down the road. No plans for a Rockstar SAT prep.

Gamernode: So we can’t expect a Grand Theft SAT?

Kaplan: (laughs) Maybe Grand Theft ACT. We’ll see. At this early in the stage a lot is still under development and as it rolls out we’ll continue to explore those options.

Gamernode: Now that you’re coming into the gaming industry you get to be a part of the insanity of it all. Are you a little scared Jack Thompson might come after this title and call it a murder simulator?

Kaplan: With this particular game we are definitely serving a unique audience and while we absolutely hope to appeal to the gaming community, we recognize this is certainly a niche product and the purpose of the game is going to be for SAT prep. The ultimate audience will be teenagers looking to prep for the SAT, which might be different than areas he may focus on.

Gamernode: You can never be too sure… Speaking of Do you think this game could ultimately assist in the educational development of students?

Kaplan: There is absolutely skills and knowledge that is transferable for all ages and I would say certainly when it comes to the particular age group set that it’s going to be most helpful for, the nature of the difficulty of the math and reading comprehension will be more geared toward a highschool audience. The content is the type of content you probably wouldn’t learn or encounter until you are in high school, but certainly all ages could benefit from the learning but a 10 year old may not know how to approach an algebra 2 problem. It’s open to all ages but it’s definitely for a high school audience.

Gamernode: Can we expect to see this software on any other portables or on consoles such as the PS3, 360 and/or Wii?

Kaplan: I think we will absolutely be continuing this discussion but at this point we are focusing on the DS.

Gamernode: Have you worked out any deals with educational facilities such as schools and libraries in order to better reach your audience?

Kaplan: All of those things are absolutely up for discussion right now, but right now we are focusing on developing the best product and the audience will grow from there.

Gamernode: Do you feel that the current educational focus in the United States is benefiting from the rich upper class students who can afford things like study guides, videogames and test prep while the inner-city students receive worse education and have no funds to prepare for college entrance exams?

Kaplan: Our commitment is to absolutely work with lots of schools and try to offer preparation for all students and we offer a wide variety of programs and it’s absolutely our commitment to make test preparation as accessible and affordable as possible. Ultimately for us we are never going to turn away a student due to financial need.

Gamernode: Is there anything else you wanted to let people know?

Kaplan: There’s going to be a lot more to come in August, but what I can tell you now is that this game is designed to be fun and innovative and be a true game and still help you prepare for the SATs.


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Author: Kyle Stallock View all posts by

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