At Global Mobile Vision 2014, this intriguing game caught my attention: Charanavi Friends (by Forcrane Juice) is an app in which you build a small virtual world that contains mini-games, to entertain existing friends, but also meet new ones. You can meet and chat, which at first, made me think of a graphically simpler version of something like Second Life. Some of the player motivations are the same, except that it is much easier to build your world using simple 2D isometric graphics. The world is also much smaller (and limited to 150 players per world), so there’s no “wandering around”.
By performing certain actions, you earn virtual coins that can be used to purchase some items. However – you have guessed it – all the cool and super-cute stuff needs to be purchased. This is the preferred monetization model for free apps like this, where differentiation of your character and world is a cornerstone of the overall stickiness. Warning: this game may be addictive.
There is, however a twist: using your birthday to determine your probable compatibility with other people (for friendship, not dating), Forcrane Juice claims to use a sophisticated set of matching data from a Japanese research company. Since this somewhat similar to what is done with the Horoscope, and not completely scientific, I can’t vouch for the pertinence of the data. However, Forcrane Juice points out that users are willing to pay for access to additional data, which mean that they take this pretty seriously.
As usual, the difficult part of the process is the customer acquisition phase. Back in the days, companies like Zynga have benefited from loose Facebook policies to build a large user base for cheap. However, this is no longer the case today, so the cost of building an audience has risen significantly. It’s true that the social nature of the game should help it grow organically, but it remains to be seen if it will grow fast enough to match its creators’ expectations. If it does, the rewards could be immense.