Penguin Young Readers has launched a redesign of its free Mad Libs app – which has racked up more than six million downloads since the release of the original version in 2009 – and will roll out its first three co-branded Mad Libs apps starting later this month. Digital developer Kettle worked with Penguin on the new look and feel.
“We completely revised it to bring it more up to speed with the best product out there on the market,” explains Adam Royce, Penguin’s v-p, digital content development. “We want to introduce Mad Libs to a new generation of fans, and have more of an international pull as well. We didn’t want it to look like the same old brand on your brand new device.”
Changes include integrating dynamic hints and gesture-based interaction to speed up game play, allowing players to share their stories on social networks, adding a musical soundtrack featuring Mad Libs’ mascot Phil N. Deblank as a guide, and introducing a brighter, more stylized look.
“From a publishing point of view, we have great new content that we’re really excited about on the print side of things, so we wanted to capture that in the app,” says Francesco Sedita, president and publisher, Grosset & Dunlap and Price Stern Sloan. “The new app is fresh and fun, and it’s such a satisfying game to play.”
Meanwhile, the inaugural co-branded app, out later this month, pairs Mad Libs and Sanrio’s Hello Kitty, to be followed by Fox’s Family Guy in December and WWE in January. The three titles are among the bestselling Mad Libs print books, as well as targeting three distinct customer groups. “Each of these three stands alone on its own, but together they also show the broad reach of the brand,” Sedita says.
“One thing we’ve come to understand about Mad Libs is that its relevance is stronger and stronger every day,” he continues. “It’s the remembrance of being in fourth grade in the back of the bus; it’s the remembrance of the family playing around the table. But it doesn’t have to stop with the back of the bus. No matter who you are, it gives you the opportunity to be the funniest person in the room. We try to capture that feeling with everything we do.”
Penguin debuted a Mad Libs pop-up shop at San Diego Comic Con this year. Sedita says the venture got a great reception, with families in costume stopping in to look at the products, sometimes introducing the children to the brand for the first time, and often buying several versions to play in long lines or at the hotel. “It was so sweet to see the whole family’s experience with Mad Libs,” he adds.
Penguin reprised the pop-up at New York Comic Con, as well as at NCTE, the National Conference of Teachers of Education annual conference, held this week in Washington, D.C. “Teachers really have a secret connection to Mad Libs because of the parts of speech,” says Sedita. “We’ll have educational guides there to show them ways to make it work in the classroom.”
As for the app, expect more updates in the coming year. “We feel really great about the flagship now, so it’s more about evolving and adding more to it over time,” Royce says. “In this business you have to continually innovate. We’ll look at adding new features, new ways to play, and new ways to fill in the story, while staying as true as we can to the brand and to the previous versions of the app.”