Southfield Firm Battles Childhood Obesity with Mobile Video Games


Broccoli will battle it out with potato chips in Health Games for Kids, a mobile video game in development at Southfield-based Pixo Group that is expected to be available this fall.

“It’s very subtle,” says Chris Firestone, president and COO of Pixo Group. “It uses entertainment in its basic form to teach kids what’s good for them (such as broccoli).”

Firestone says childhood obesity was the inspiration for the game. “It’s a combination of seeing a need in the marketplace from a product standpoint as well as a need in society from a health care standpoint,” he says.

The app — which can be modified to better highlight the brands that license the game — allows young children to pick an avatar that represents them in several games, each providing a different motivation, Firestone says. While one teaches children to limit time spent in front of a computer or television screen, another encourages them to get up and dance to the music they store on their mobile device.

Health Games for Kids was recently awarded a digital media incentive of $48,261 on $138,877 of projected in-state expenditures.

This isn’t the first tax incentive for Pixo Group. Founded in 2009, it was the first company in the state to receive an incentive for a video game. It was also the first to receive incentives for a website as well as a mobile app.

“Most people think these incentives cover big Hollywood movies coming to town that take the money and run,” Firestone says. “But for us, it really helps mitigate risk for investors. And it helps create jobs — that’s actual people in seats at Pixo, working.”

Firestone says the incentives allow Pixo to productize its code, giving it the ability to quickly develop applications based on projects they’ve already written. “We’re more efficient and quick, and that gives us a huge edge in the market place.”

Other projects to recently receive incentives from the state include Scrap Yard, a combat video game that is being developed at Quantum Signal in Saline, and Santa & His Elves, an application geared toward families with small children is being developed by Bloomfield Hills-based Believe.