We'd like to welcome our latest sponsor, Soft Material, a new company formed to publish CD-ROM titles from creative and innovative authors, particularly titles from Japanese and European authors that might not otherwise reach as broad an audience.
Despite the success of a few CD-ROM titles, such as Myst and Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual, the hurdles facing a CD-ROM title (or any software product from a small company) are enormous. (Alexander Seropian of Bungie Software wrote about these issues in TidBITS-352.) In an effort to bypass these hurdles, Soft Material is focusing distribution not through software stores and catalogs, but instead through specialty and gift shops. This shift away from the software channel as a means to release CD-ROMs is not entirely unique, but I expect many people will watch Soft Material's progress closely. Soft Material is associated with a few other interesting projects as well, and we may see some rather unique offerings in its sponsorship text as time goes by.
Soft Material has just launched its first title, a $34.95 book/CD-ROM combination called Pickle's Book (ISBN 0-9961632-0-6) created by Japanese illustrator and animator Thoru Yamamoto. Thoru has been using the Macintosh to create pictures and movies for some time; his Web site links to HyperCard stacks and Shockwave movies that he's made. Over the years, he's created a collection of characters: moles, a small prince, palm trees, ducks, penguins, and many more, which appear in most of his works, including Pickle's Book.
The hardcover book has paperboard pages, illustrated with a few of the many scenes from the CD-ROM. The narrative is simple (slightly too complex for my 22-month-old next door neighbor), and relates to what happens as you play with the CD-ROM. The CD-ROM is easy for anyone who can manage a mouse and had enough content to hold my interest for quite a while (I've spent inordinate amounts of time wandering through landscapes and hidden underground passageways in search of some of the more subtle aspects of the game). However, it's clearly aimed at children (ages three to ten), with sections for creating drawn art and music, and another for working with the alphabet. My favorite section involves figuring out how to make a goose lay golden eggs. The CD-ROM works with the Mac OS and Windows; minimum Mac system requirements include a 33 MHz 68030-based Macintosh, System 6.0.7, 13-inch monitor, 8 MB disk space, and 5 MB free RAM.
Soft Material -- 800/699-4144 -- 212/343-2089