Mobile gaming may be growing in leaps and bounds, but according to one Belgian software developer, many companies are ignoring a key demographic. The bulk of gaming product is targeted at males because they’re the primary platform purchasing group. But one major exception to that rule is mobile phones, which has a demo split that’s pretty much straight down the middle. Zeroing in on what it sees as a huge gap in the market, Brussels-based Flow has created a game concept and cast of characters called MiniFizz, which are designed specifically to appeal to girls and young women in the 13-plus bracket.
‘If you look at Asia, which is always a little ahead of us, the girls are really setting the trend, and that’s the first time that has happened with this type of technology,’ says Flow co-owner and creative director Sabine Allaeys. ‘Girls are very social, and the mobile phone is a big part of their social life.’
Allaeys says the timing for this type of game is excellent because mobile phone technology has developed to the point that it can support longer and more complex gameplay. And Java-enabled phones that can download the software have come down in price, making them more accessible to kids.
The MiniFizz games launched in the U.K. and France last month on Orange, one of the territories’ largest mobile service providers. They will roll out across the rest of Europe this month, and Flow has been approached by distributors in Canada, Australia, Singapore and the U.S. (AT&T).
The games are currently available as one-time paid downloads for US$5 to US$9, though Allaeys says some of the European service providers Flow is in negotiations with are looking into the option of a subscription-based service.
Since female characters in the gaming world all seem to belong to one of two schools – the ass-kicking babe à la Lara Croft, or fluffy and cute critters – Allaeys wanted to create a new kind of avatar that would reflect real girls’ interests and varied lifestyles. To that end, Flow has come up with a cast of characters that run a realistic personality gamut, from bad girls to wallflowers.
The games themselves are very story-driven and appeal to a girl’s desire to explore, says Allaeys. MiniFizz Mission, which launched in January, is a real-time game that’s essentially a short novel – girls follow the story by connecting with MiniFizz characters at appointed times. For example, when a player’s MiniFizz is followed by a strange guy, they must consult with the other characters to find out who he is and why he’s interested in her.
Launching in March, MiniFizz Avenue is closer to a traditional video game. Playing as MiniFizz characters, girls must get to meetings in cities like Paris, London and New York on time, while avoiding pitfalls (like getting hit by an errant bucket of water) and interacting with people on the street. Flow plans to release at least two more games in 2004.