Game talkWebkinz & kin: yet more mammals

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Jan 222007
 

Continuing on the theme of massively multiplayer worlds that people don’t pay attention to, here’s a nice Boston Globe article about Webkinz. The gimmick here is that you buy a plush toy, and it comes with a login code for your virtual apartment, complete with a virtual pet version of the toy you bought. In fact, the toy is actually your subscription fee: each one you buy gives you access for a year.

Enough with the hype, you say. How about figures? Try 2.5m uniques in December.

This goes alongside Club Penguin‘s 4m uniques in December, of course. A core characteristic of these games is that they offer housing and pets in place of character advancement — mechanics that are of course near and dear to my heart.

Madison shows a visitor her Webkinz house, which has 14 rooms and a yard. The playroom is stocked with a board game, soccer ball, and dollhouse. Madison enjoys competing for best outfit on Webkinz SuperModelz and avoiding falling candies on Candy Bash 2. She also feeds her virtual pets and monitors their health and happiness.

I of course find it ironic that the very features that are regarded as peripheral by the mainstream games biz are the ones driving mass market acceptance. With little kids, anyway.

The article offers other tidbits, such as these little factoids:

Last month Toontown attracted 2.2 million visitors. Disney plans to introduce a “Pirates of the Caribbean” MMO game this year. The medieval-themed RuneScape, whose typical user is a 14- or 15-year-old boy, began in 2001 and attracted 5.8 million visitors in December.

I won’t reiterate yet again how much cheaper it was to make these sites compared to a regular MMO. In fact, you can buy the server Club Penguin is built on for 3500 Euro. I hope the dinosaurs are paying attention.

  23 Responses to “Webkinz & kin: yet more mammals”

  1. [IMG raphkoster.com]

  2. Original post: Webkinz& kin: yet more mammals by (c) 2007 RSS M User at My channel Technorati tag: Webkinz

  3. Webkinz commentaries: Webkinz on Buzzfeed Webkinz in NYTimes from 2006.03.26 [via Buzzfeed] Webkinz on CNN Money from 2007.04.01 [via Raph Koster] Webkinz on the Boston Globe from 2007.01.20 [via Raph Koster] Webkinz on MSNBC in North Platte Nebraska from 2007.03.22 Webkinz word of mouth strategy I’ve become the parent I hate Webkinz on PlayLibrary from 2006.04.14 Webkinz on PlayLibrary from 2006.09.08

  4. In fact, you can buy the server Club Penguin is built on for 3500 Euro.

    I did some consulting for someone using the SmartFox server last year. While it’s kinda neat, it’s not like SmartFox is like DIKU that lets you set up a game in a few hours of work. It’s really just a cheap replacement for the Flash Server that got priced way out of the indie developer’s price range. You still have to develop the game that goes along with it, which is still a challenge. ;) It’s similar to saying you could get the same technology that powers EVE for free. (Well, the servers at least. But, Flash powers the client for Club Penguin, not SmartFox.) Once again, tech isn’t the silver bullet.

    But, yeah, same story we see on a regular basis: if it’s not hardcore, it gets ignored. And, this is the same as with many media: kids books tend to get overlooked as “serious literature”. But, from the legal point of view, it’s easier to develop a game for adults than navigate the minefield that is dealing with children customers online.

  5. The trend for sucessful businesses is to start with fully integrated first life and second life communities and ecologies.

    Webkinz is a great example. The web component of Webkinz is an value-added feature that:
    (1) is a differentiating feature in the plush toy business
    (2) allows you to sell at premium (Buy a plush toy and get the online pet as THE PREMIUM)
    (3) attract more sales
    (5) use the retail distribution channels for the web business
    (6) use e-commerce channels to upsell retail products (buy a pet online and get a plush toy as THE PREMIUM).
    (7) generate more profits

    The secondary trend, particular for online entertainment, is to leverage the social dimension. We done the achievement dimension to death already :)

    Good stuff…

    Frank

  6. I believe limited edition figurines are quite popular in Japan, what if you could buy a unique or limited edition figurine and get that avatar with associated special capabilities in a MMORPG?

  7. I’m skeptical of these numbers. There are what, 300 million people in the United States? Does “4m uniques in December” really indicate that 4 million different people checked into this virtual world (that I hadn’t heard of until reading your post)? That seems incredible to me. Or am I missing some wrinkle in these figures?

  8. I think a big part of the wrinkle you’re missing is that you’re too old. The other day I was showing some Cub Scouts my office. They asked if I had worked on Lego Star Wars. When I said no, they asked if I had made games for literally a dozen different game portals — including many I had never heard of. These were 3rd graders.

    Check the ranking of Club Penguin on Yahoo’s buzz meter.

  9. [...] Raph Koster points out that setting up a MMORPG is pretty cheap these days: even the top-end SmartFox system, which is Java-based, costs just 2000 Euros. Already there’s a number of games based on the code. And, of course, all this will run on a GNU/Linux box also costing peanuts. The only downside is that, like many online games these days, the SmartFox approach is to use Flash. [...]

  10. Also, note that kids then to swarm to popular activities in large groups. If a few cool 3rd grader liked some website, all the 3rd graders will be all over it. Remember time times when baseball cards, pokemon, or whatever kid pastime was the rage.

    As for “uniques”, could be unique log-on sessions such that a kid could generate a few dozen uniques in a given month? If uniques are linked to unique plush toy sold, 2.5m plush toys sold a month is very good. However, I doubt that the correct interpretation.

    Frank

  11. Well, Raph, as I’ve been trying to explain, these are all girl-games. My daughter and her friends play the Penguin one and some of these others. And girl-games attract at least 50 percent of the human race, maybe more. Girls, and some boys, just love making houses, having dolls and pets, and arranging them. They don’t like going out questing time and shooting stuff — those are boys’ games. Yes, this is horribly un-PC, but there it is, the game facts don’t like. When you, as a boy, can begin to understand the attraction of girls’ games and start making more girls’ games, you will be even more wealthy and wise than you are now. Look at Will Wright. He understood girls’ games, and made them.

  12. Come now, you’re stereotyping just a wee bit. :) All the games I have worked on have had housing and pets, I wanted them there! I also spend lots of time on dress-up factors. I always get yelled at for ignoring combat, too…

  13. [...] The Real Online Game Business? Raph Koster has a most intriguing pair of articles on his web site that essentially ask the question – what is the online game business? In “They’re spending time where?” he discusses the top online gaming sites by time and market share and, for a change, Second Life and World of Warcraft aren’t mentioned. The game sites listed are not the usual suspects at all (from 2007, The Year of the Online Game? by Jason Lee Miller): Hitwise’s Top US Game Sites, In Terms of Market Share 1. Pogo.com 2. Yahoo! Games 3. RuneScape 4. Yahoo! Games Downloads 5. MSN Games 6. Neopets.com 7. Gamefaqs.com 8. Miniclip Games 9. Addicting Games 10. Yahoo! Fantasy Sports Top US Game Sites, In Terms of Average Session Time 1. IamGame.com 2. BrainKing.com 3. Hogwarts Live 4. Eternal Kingdoms 5. Hogwarts Extreme 6. Cyber Arcade World 7. Gothador 8. Gang-Wars 9. Game Bonus 10. The Pokemon Crater Of course, no data is provided on non-US users or sites (though I suspect these numbers include non-US users at US sites). The other interesting question raised is that there are a huge number of independent game sites with casual, and not so casual, games that may be where the “real” money is BUT, because they don’t tie into the conventional Venture Capital / Research Analysis world (or even the “experts” in online gaming)… they just aren’t measured. Also, the power of gaming as part of an overall business strategy is something that should have a lot more attention – and Raph’s article on the toy Webkins is a great example. There are massive, untapped business opportunities that are lying at our feet if we’d just look past our navels. See also Internet Ad Future is A Load of Bull by Jason Lee Miller. Posted by SecurePlay in Game Industry, Game Demographics & Metrics, Game Design at 10:08 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0) View as PDF: This entry | This month | Full blog Trackbacks Trackback specific URI for this entry No Trackbacks Comments Display comments as (Linear | Threaded) No comments Add Comment [...]

  14. You’re right. I’m just old. I read some of the press stories on Club Penguin, and I see that I had missed this phenomenon completely.

    As a parent, I’m kind of glad my eight-year-old is building Legos instead of doing this, but I wonder if he’s missing something. Apart from short-term amusement, are there benefits attached to a child’s interacting in an online virtual world?

  15. Prokofy is probably right about the central tendency but there IS variance there. In SWG I spent much more time playing my Image Designer than my TKA and more time on hairdos and makeovers than fighting. Moreover, the majority of my customers were male avatars [who knows who was at the keyboard]. Granted it was a slim majority but I was tickled by the fact that many of the most combat oriented eventually decided it would be nice to actually have a chin on their avatar ;)

    As for houses and stuff to put in them…another arena for achievers to stay ahead of the Joneses. Especially if housing, guild halls etc are publicly visible.

    Based on a n of 5 it’s true that the 3 males are generally more combat oriented than the 2 females. But it’s not as simple as “boyz fight, gurlz don’t”. Both my wife and my daughter are not at all averse to fighting. The difference seems to be that they are less likely to fight just to be fighting, they fight when something gets in the way of them obtaining an object that they want.

    I think Raph put his finger on the most important factor for these games: age.

  16. “But, from the legal point of view, it’s easier to develop a game for adults than navigate the minefield that is dealing with children customers online.”

    Thats so true, we had to completly exclude those below 13 from GLM. The legal ramifacations and privacy concerns as well as the other features of the site preclude having 7-12 year olds.

  17. Have you seen Miuchiz? It’s a handheld video game for kids (kind of a tamagotchi), with a USB port. You attach it to a Windows machine, fire it up, and it grants you permission to play in a virtual world that’s essentially an MMORPG for kids. The packaging is obtuse, and I didn’t recognize that the handheld has this function until after I got it up and running. They started out at around $50, but I understand the price has fallen to closer to $20 these days.

  18. These are not girl games.

    Miuchiz Monsterz is just one of three MMOs from MGA Entertainment, all built concurrently, all using a common graphics engine, one including a license (Bratz).

    Club Penguin has topped Miniclip.com’s charts almost since launch. This is Miniclips, the casual and free online games service. Club Penguin itself carries a fee, and yet continuously is in the top 3 for the free place.

    Webkinz is interesting because it’s not really a PSW in the traditional sense, but can be billed as one. The point of entry is the same as the MGA titles: buy hardware for a cost, get access to a world. MGA spent close to $20mil on their system, and their handheld lets you play that character in offline mode (it’s not that great, but it’s the first of it’s time).

    As we’ve all been saying, times are a changin’. The folks only looking at WoW were the same only looking at EQ1. Same game, same target market. The world has up and changed all around them, but that golden 8mil subscription mark drowns out such things. The forward-looking groups are looking at the emerging players, the younger ones, the casual adult ones.

    This is why I feel that WoW won’t be topped by another diku. It’ll be topped when the measure of success is changed. Heck, Maplestory and Habbo have RADICALLY more accounts than WoW, and much higher ARPU. And the games cost way less to make. And they offer functionally similar game play with more deep rewards. And of course are microtrans :)

    WoW capped one way of delivering success. There’s a few others.

  19. [...] changing hands, and the consistent [...] Source: BrokenToys – Lum Categories: Bloggers 03:55 Webkinz & kin: yet more mammals Continuing on the theme of massively multiplayer worlds that people don’t pay attention to, [...]

  20. yo im having a HUGE compatishon on webkinz 2 enter all u have 2 do is add me my user is rcarca10 and then send a gift ther will be a first second and third and even forth prize the first place winner will reseeve a rock star tv worth 1000 kinz cash +3 food items how cool is that any way second place will reseeve a rock star poster and a 10% w shop coupon and third place will reseeve a clothing item of any kind and forth place will get 2 food items u have till feb third 2 enter the prises
    will be given on feb 4 thx enter now!!!

  21. [...] strategy is something that should have a lot more attention – and Raph’s article on the toy Webkins is a great example. There are massive, untapped business opportunities that are lying at our feet [...]

  22. [...] • webkins.org null webkins.org • Raph’s Website " Webkinz & kin: yet more mammals Raph Koster’s personal website: MMOs, gaming, writing, art, music, books. … a lot more [...]

  23. [...] relating to penguin webkins Sponsored by: http://www.toseeka.org [Found on Ads by Ask.com] 26. Raph’s Website " Webkinz & kin: yet more mammals In fact, you can buy the server Club Penguin is built on for 3500 Euro. … webkins – Web – [...]

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