Case Study: How SuperAwesome helped brands and developers engage young audiences safely in 2021

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COVID-19 has forced children across the world to spend huge chunks of their lives online, spurring an increase in under-18 internet use that was already well underway before the pandemic. In 2021, kids grew accustomed to spending their lives in virtual worlds; by July 2020, over half of U.S. kids had a Roblox account.

With virtual spaces becoming a playground for under-18 internet users, brands and platforms have adapted accordingly, making their online activations safer and bringing them in line with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in order to engage with this burgeoning demographic of digital consumers.

In September 2020, Epic Games acquired SuperAwesome to help the company scale up its safety and privacy services, making the internet safer for underaged users across the board. SuperAwesome’s growth has been significant since then. At the moment, SuperAwesome has 250 employees spread across the globe — and it’s in the process of hiring more.

Digiday sat down with Dylan Collins, CEO at SuperAwesome to discuss the recent rise in online activity among children and how his company is working to make the internet safer.

SuperAwesome’s Mission: How to help brands and developers engage with young audiences safely

01

Changing behaviors

Children are always online. However, with pandemic restrictions requiring children around the globe to get used to socializing and attending school via online platforms, the number of underage internet users has increased dramatically over the past two years. This includes both video games and general activities.

“When you look at screen time for young audiences, over the course of 2020, that jumped, rather unsurprisingly, by about 50%. Collins stated that the whole year and subsequent years really marked this acceleration in gaming. “Now, almost every young person is playing games. They are moving away from linear TV and towards livestreaming. Today, 90% of kids under 16 are playing games, and the majority of those are spending somewhere around about two hours a day in front of games content.”

This increase in gaming among the under-aged coincides with an increase in gaming as a pastime for older people. It is becoming more crucial than ever to ensure safety and priority for both children and adults when they interact in virtual spaces.

02

The challenges

The pandemic-driven rise in online activity among children has created two major challenges, Collins said. Collins stated that the first is regulatory. “The brands who are trying to engage with these young audiences have to also navigate through an increasing number digital laws for children and teens.” They have to deal with .”

, regardless of whether it is COPPA, age-appropriate code, GDPR [Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation guidelines], or both.

The second challenge is technological in nature. “We have a general environment that has not invested in what we call childtech historically. Collins stated that the Internet was initially designed for adults. Collins explained that much of the game area was designed in the same way. “And now, you have young audiences that are becoming an increasing part of the Internet. We need to consider community health, toxicity, parental consent, and data privacy .

03

Developing tools

In addition to a plan to create a team to help brands interact with gaming communities genuinely and professionally, SuperAwesome’s primary technical focus was to rollout a parent verification product called Kids Web Services. This is a developer-side tool that allows parents to give their consent for their children playing in virtual spaces.

Developers can pre-verify parental consent in the system. This makes it easier for parents to approve children’s activities on multiple platforms. Collins stated that developers can see how difficult it is to understand the system. “It’s not like, okay, we have to build a flow,’ but rather, we’ve got to figure out how this will comply with all the laws that are constantly changing and evolving.” It’s super simple for developers to implement .”

when we combine these services.

04

Scaling up

Collins was very focused on scaling up as SuperAwesome approached Epic last year. Collins stated that “we could scale up our mission to make internet safer for children in a way no amount of VC money would have been able unlock for us.”

The core of the acquisition was Epic’s role as both an infrastructure company and a game developer, such as Epic’s online store and Unreal Engine. “[CEO Tim Sweeney’s] view in terms of values privacy and values of audience inclusionness really lined up,” Collins stated. “And I can tell from many conversations that rarely happens

With the confidence that comes with Epic’s backing, SuperAwesome was able to expand its services in 2021 by making tools such as parental verification free to developers. “Before we were acquired by Epic, we were powering about 10 or 11 billion consumer transactions a month,” Collins said. “At the moment, I don’t believe we’ve released any numbers. But, you can assume that it’s significantly greater than that .”

.”

05

An open ecosystem

While Epic Games’ infrastructure services include SuperAwesome, it is not only for Epic-associated developers nor brands that are primarily partners with Epic.

” Our SuperAwesome gaming team facilitated Roblox’s MGA, DreamWorks and a lot more in-game stuff with Paramount, Nickelodeon, and Moose Toys,” Collins stated. Our team did a fantastic job helping big brands get into the gaming world and begin to see that this is the future landscape .”

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