After answering a few readers queries through email, I realized that there is a growing reader's interest in mobile offering of avatars. Therefore, I decided to reply in a series of posts for the benefit of others who might be interested as well.
One of my favorite examples of a smart business model and a VERY successful avatar service is Mobile Game Town (Mobagetown) from Japan. It is the largest and fastest growing mobile Social Networking Service (SNS), available only on mobile. The site is a blend of casual games and social networking, multiplayer and singleplayer games coupled with chat, blogs and avatars.
An interesting fact is that Mobile Game Town is offered by DeNA, a Tokyo-based e-commerce company that runs virtual auction sites and shopping malls. This fact leaves a notable footmark on the business model (and makes a differentiator from other SNS sites). DeNA hooks the users with free mobile games with over 30 titles to choose from, supported by advertisement. Users buy from mobile e-commerce sites and get “mobile gold” which is then used to dress their avatars; by spending in the real world users get virtual money to dress their virtual alter ego, their avatar.
Mobile Game Town’s success is overwhelming: 5 million users with over 400 million daily page views back in May in less than a year from its official launch. Just to put the numbers in perspective, Mobile Game Town’s stats are four times larger than that of Yahoo's mobile portal!
And to give you a sense of latest (brilliant) marketing activities:
In June, DeNA announced "an interesting summer Yukata campaign. In co-operation with Aeon dept. store the companies have set-up a virtual avatar catalogue from which members can build, for a modest fee, their outfit based on actual products complete with best dressed contest prizes. This would seem to be a rather slick ad campaign ultimately designed to drive purchases of the real thing just in time for the summer matsuri (festival) season. The company ran a similar campaign for Nike where customers who bought physical goods were rewarded with virtual prizes."
[via Wireless World Japan]
And a special treat from the Wireless Watch Japan - a video demo of both "Mobile Game Town" and Disney's "Wonder Days" (which will be reviewed here on its own in one of my next posts).