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Former Nintendo executive Cammie Dunaway will lead KidZania’s U.S. operations as it creates “kid-sized cities” for kids in shopping malls. KidZania creates places where children can discover real jobs and have fun in mini-cities within shopping malls.
Started in Mexico, KidZania are small towns with buildings, streets, businesses and vehicles. They are bigger than most department stores. Inside these shelters, children can take on real jobs such as running a radio station, a vet’s office, a fire station, a bakery, or other businesses. Dunaway’s job will be to launch KidZania across the United States
Dunaway, who recently stepped down as Nintendo of America’s director of sales and marketing, will become U.S. president and global chief marketing officer for KidZania. It will set up a new office in San Jose, California, and hire a team to install KidZania mini theme parks in malls. But she will also oversee a team that will create KidZania-focused online entertainment so kids can visit it both offline and online.
“It’s a new kind of hybrid entertainment and education,” Dunaway said in an interview. “Children can learn what it really takes to accomplish so many different tasks. It’s about making them accountable. »
Dunaway has led sales and marketing for Nintendo’s US division for the past three years. During this time, the Wii game console and the DS handheld took dominant market shares, propelling Nintendo to the top spot in the industry. But Dunaway said the chance to start something like KidZania was too good to pass up.
KidZania is the mind child of Mexican entrepreneur Xavier Lopez Acona, who wanted to help working moms find nurturing childcare. He was the Latin American director of GE Capital. But he quit that job to start the first KidZania in Mexico City in 1999, and it’s drawn more than eight million visitors to date. New theme parks have opened in Monterrey, Mexico; Tokyo; Jakarta; Osaka, Japan; Lisbon, Portugal; Dubai; and Seoul.
KidZania “Interactive Family Entertainment Centers” are aimed at children ages 1-13. Together with their parents, children can explore a city on a human scale (they remind me of places like the Venetian Hotel or Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, where there are lots of shops and restaurants under a fake sky painted on the ceiling. Inside the parks, kids can earn their own virtual currency and spend it on things inside the park. They can create things like Hershey’s candy bars, create newspapers, and basically run the entire place, under adult supervision Dunaway said KidZania exposes children to economics and all kinds of pursuits.
Dunaway said the first KidZania will open in the United States by 2013. Many more are expected to open in 2011 in Bangkok; Shanghai; Santiago, Chile; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Bombay, India. KidZania will also open a “drive” park in Mexico City where children can drive vehicles from one point to another. In 2012, KidZania will expand to Istanbul, Turkey and Cairo, Egypt.
Dunaway said she will work closely with marketers to recruit large corporations as sponsors at KidZania theme parks. Current sponsors already include Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart and Fuji Film. Dunaway said she was recruited by Wiser Partners. Dunaway was previously chief marketing officer at Yahoo, and she managed a number of brands for Frito-Lay during a 13-year stint there. KidZania has over 2,500 employees and 2,000 other partners worldwide.
Breaking into the United States will not be easy, given all the competition from theme parks in this country. But the malls are in distress and they would no doubt like a new anchor tenant to replace the department stores that have closed. Theme parks charge an entry fee and also make money from sponsorships.
In many ways, I can see what a step forward this is for Dunaway, who saw a mad dash to the top at Nintendo with the Wii. More recently, Wii sales have begun to slow, with August sales in the US being Nintendo’s worst since the Wii launched in 2006. It will be harder for Nintendo to make sales gains short term. to come up. But Dunaway said she expects Nintendo to see strong sales this holiday season and has high hopes for the new Nintendo 3DS handheld game system, which launches in the United States in March. Now Dunaway is hoping for another wild ride.
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