British firms Mind Candy and MakieLab have traditionally focused on children, with the Moshi Monsters virtual world and 3D-printed dolls respectively. Their new mobile games are seeking a wider audience.
Mind Candy has released Moshling Rescue, a Candy Crush Saga-style puzzle game for iPhone, iPad and Facebook, with Android to follow. Meanwhile, MakieLab has released a fashion-themed iPad game called Makies FabLab.
Both games are free to download and play, but include optional in-app purchases to buy virtual currency – a business model that has been controversial in recent years due to concerns that children will spend money without their parents’ permission.
However, Mind Candy and MakieLab say their new games are taking a responsible approach. Mind Candy’s chief product officer Chia Chin Lee told The Guardian that Moshling Rescue “isn’t created for children”, but instead for their parents.
“Moshi Monsters is a brand that parents have enjoyed alongside their children for some time now, and this is our way of giving some more of that fun to the parents,” said Lee. “At Mind Candy, we’ve always said that we want to be a family entertainment company and not just create entertainment for young children.”
Moshling Rescue involves players swapping colourful “gummies” to make matches of three or more, with Candy Crush-style “boosts” and the option to compare scores with Facebook friends.
The game’s virtual diamonds currency is sold in packages starting at £0.69 for 100 diamonds, rising to £59.99 for 10,500 diamonds:
“We are not marketing the game directly to Moshi Monsters kids or creating any Moshling Rescue merchandise aimed towards children,” said Lee, who said Moshling Rescue had been built from the ground up for adults.
“Moshling Rescue doesn’t sit within the Moshi Monsters franchise and during our testing we found that our Moshling characters resonate with adults. With this in mind, we developed specific Moshlings narratives and tailored them to fit in a game for an older audience.”
MakieLab, meanwhile, began life as a startup helping people to design virtual dolls, then order 3D-printed physical versions. Makies FabLab replaces its previous iPad app, Makies Doll Factory.
Players of the new game create an avatar and make clothes for her, unlocking new garments and designing patterns as they go. Players can order a doll based on their avatar, and in the future will also be able to order real (doll-sized) versions of the clothes they make in the game.
Makies FabLab also uses in-app purchases, with players able to buy virtual “Makie Coins” and “Super Boosts” for between £0.69 and £5.49 at a time, as well as paying £2.99 to unlock all the game’s colours and textures.
“We didn’t want to restrict the game only to kids, because fashion isn’t restricted to kids, and dolls aren’t either. People think about dolls only being sold to children, but a lot of money is being spent by grown-ups who are collecting,” MakieLab chief executive Alice Taylor told The Guardian.
“It’s targeted at eight to 80 year-olds, but we know that we’ll have a lot of children playing, so we wanted to be responsible: we didn’t want to go for the full £69.99 in-app purchases for example.”
Taylor suspects that the game’s players may be split equally between children and adults, but said that MakieLab will make changes to the way it charges if it discovers that its audience skews a long way towards one or the other.
She added that MakieLab has tested its new game with children to make sure they understand that in-app purchases use real money.
“We’ve had girls eight and up play it, and asked them what they think when they see the boosts and the coins. They all know what it is: that it means real money and they know not to press that button, or to ask their parents,” she said.
“As an industry, we should all do this responsibly and figure this out. Nobody wants kids to go in and spend money when they’re not supposed to. But collectively the industry hasn’t yet quite figured out how you’re supposed to understand who’s playing your games.”
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