SEATTLE and REDMOND, Wash. — Nov. 12, 2008 — Sabi Inc., a Seattle-based startup company, and Microsoft Corp. announce the launch of ItzaBitza, a unique, engaging interactive drawing and reading game for children age 4 and older.
Sabi was created through the collaboration of the Microsoft IP Ventures program and Sabi co-founder and CEO Margaret Johnson. Sabi’s premier game, ItzaBitza, is the first in a series of powerful new games from the company that inspire creativity, exercise minds and deliver uniquely fun experiences.
“Our vision is to create a new gaming category that stimulates creative thinking,” Johnson said.
ItzaBitza’s unique approach to interactive learning is based on innovative breakthroughs in design and technology, conceived at Microsoft Research — along with the support and guidance of Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s chief research and strategy officer — and licensed to Sabi through Microsoft’s IP Ventures program.
“Game-based education is a very exciting concept, and one that we have been interested in for many years,” Mundie said. “The launch of Sabi’s game is a great example of our collaborative efforts to bootstrap young companies by providing them with guidance and access to innovative intellectual property.”
The game is built on a unique drawing recognition experience, called Living Ink, which identifies the drawing of certain objects and brings them to life so that the child’s art becomes an integral part of the game. Children then interact with the drawings, embark on different quests and create their own stories using the characters in the game.
“We wanted to take all we had learned while incubating our game designs at Microsoft and create a game we felt was a fresh approach to children’s computer games,” Johnson said. “We see ItzaBitza as the seed of an effort in which the games children want to play provide crucial creativity and reading skills they need to succeed.”
More details on the game are available at http://www.microsoft.com/Presspass/presskits/ipventures/default.mspx.
Johnson was inspired to start her own company after struggling to find age-appropriate, purposeful games for her daughters. Johnson, along with her two co-founders Duncan, an accomplished game designer, and Thomas Steinke, an experienced game developer, set out to bring Sabi’s unique games to the market. As an 18-year Microsoft veteran, Johnson knew that for Sabi’s games to have an impact on kids, she needed to build a very strong interdisciplinary team. The end result, ItzaBitza, sets a new standard of collaboration between industry, academia and end users that leverages scientific insight into the ways kids learn, while also incorporating state-of-the-art gaming design principles.
A version for the PC is available for online download or CD purchase at the price of $19.99 at online retailers http://www.Amazon.com and http://www.jr.com as well as http://www.ItzaBitza.com. More information on Sabi can be found at http://www.sabigames.com.
Helping Young Readers Succeed
ItzaBitza is a 21st-century interactive game that enables players’ drawings to come to life. The game also provides an educational arena to encourage children to read. It begins with play sets that include easy and basic words, and then gets increasingly difficult as the child successfully completes the challenges. ItzaBitza supports young readers with audio word help, so they don’t get frustrated if they get stuck on a word. To ensure that the text is appropriate for young readers and builds their reading skills, Johnson worked closely with a team of children’s reading specialists. By reading and responding to these challenges in the game and using their imagination to change the story, children are empowered and engaged in a truly creative way.
“My children absolutely love the game and always experience something new and exciting each time they play,” said Mia Todd, a mother of four young children. “As a parent, it’s great to see them learning and being creative, and having so much fun at the same time.”
Microsoft’s Unique Approach to Collaboration Through Intellectual Property Licensing
Sabi is the most recent company to be launched through the dynamic Microsoft IP Ventures program, which started in May 2005 to expedite the commercialization of new innovations developed through the company’s significant R&D investment. Microsoft IP Ventures is a global program demonstrating the potential of intellectual property (IP) to create opportunity for both startup and existing firms, by combining world-class computer science research with entrepreneurial spirit. Other recent examples of companies launched through Microsoft’s unique approach to IP licensing are Zignals (http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2008/jun08/06-11ZignalsPR.mspx) and Zumobi (http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2007/mar07/03-26ZenZuiPR.mspx). More on IP Ventures can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/iplicensing/InformationalPage.aspx?content=IPVentures.
Sabi, Inc. was founded in 2008 to provide powerful new gaming experiences that focus on creativity and interactive learning. Future games from Sabi will continue to focus on the player’s creative expression through the use of ground-breaking technology. For more information on the company, visit www.sabigames.com.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.
Note to editors: If you are interested in viewing additional information on Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft Web page at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass on Microsoft’s corporate information pages. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may since have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/contactpr.mspx.