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Photo: Toca Boca

Toca Boca, known for its open-ended play apps for young children, is in the midst of the biggest shift in its history. It's simultaneously moving its focus toward older kids and to a model that embraces in-app purchases rather than one-time upfront payments.

What's new: With Toca Life: World, the company is bringing together what had been several paid products into a single free app, with different paid options to unlock various content. Those who have already bought a Toca Life app will have that content unlocked from the get-go.

Why it matters: The move is likely to encounter pushback, but is part of a broader industry shift to focus on recurring revenue.

"This is really a very big step for us as a company," acknowledges Toca Boca president Caroline Ingeborn in an interview.

  • Shifting to an in-app purchase model will allow the company to bring together its various worlds, provide more frequent updates and offer various perks to an older set of 6–9 year olds.
  • The company has spent months working on the new setup, trying to offer a range of options to customers and clearly label what is free and what is paid.
"We don’t want to fool anyone," she says. "We want this to be as clear and transparent as possible."

It's been testing the new approach in Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan since September. Toca Boca says both downloads and purchases have exceeded expectations in those countries.

The company is also taking a new approach to licensing. Toca Boca had a unisex clothing line that sold at Target, but that effort has wound down. Ingeborn says merchandise is still of interest, but the company is focused on categories kids like to get, such as stickers and toys.

"Very few brands have successfully been able to go from digital to physical," Ingeborn says. "That is a very big bet we are doing."

Go deeper

30 mins ago - World

Australian PM pledges $700M for climate change-threatened Great Barrier reef

A green sea turtle is flourishing among the corals at Lady Elliot island in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Friday a AU$1 billion ($703 million) investment plan for the Great Barrier Reef.

Why it matters: The nine-year plan for projects including water quality improvement, reef conservation and supporting some 64,000 tourism jobs comes months ahead of this year's federal election. It has been criticized by scientists and environmental groups for failing to tackle climate change.

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine Thursday night, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.