Facebook for kids is monster hit

Moshi Monsters, the multi-player social networking game aimed at under-12s, boasts more than 25 million members

By Rosie Lavan

PROJECT TITLE: MOSHI MONSTERS

SHORT STORY SYNOPSIS: In this online game for under-12s, players adopt and customise a monster as their virtual pet. The aim of games and puzzles is to win Rox, which can then be used to buy items for their monster. Set in Monstro City, it features social networking elements, enabling interaction with fellow players.

FORMAT: Online social networking game

PRODUCTION COMPANY: Mind Candy

FINANCIERS: Include Index Ventures; Accel Partners; 15 “business angels” including John Hegarty of BBH

STATUS: Complete – ongoing

RELEASE DATES: 2008

THE PROJECT

Nicknamed Facebook for kids, Moshi Monsters is an online social networking game aimed at 7 to 11-year-olds. It combines an “education by stealth” approach – puzzles which test arithmetic, vocabulary, logic and spatial awareness – with the online chatting and communication features common to social networking sites for teenagers and adults.

The game was developed by Mind Candy, the London-based media company led by CEO Michael Acton Smith, in 2007, and launched in 2008. Moshi Monsters has enjoyed noteworthy commercial success, and the backing it receives from major financiers in online media and advertising is an indication of the industry’s faith in the venture. Funders include Index Ventures, which also financed Last.fm; Accel Partners, which has a stake in Facebook; and 15 “business angels” with personal stakes, among them Sir. John Hegarty, co-founder of the leading advertising agency BBH (Bartle Bogle Hegarty).

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT

Moshi Monsters set itself the target of winning 15 million users and achieved it in March 2010. It is now thought that there are more than 25 million registered players, with roughly a third of them from the UK. Lewis PR, which has worked on promoting the game since March 2010, cites competitions and “innovative campaigns in kids’ press” as major elements of its audience engagement strategy.

Hey Moshi!

Hey Moshi! This dance was performed live in March 2010 at the party to celebrate the game's 15 millionth player

In the Observer in April 2010, Michael Acton Smith pointed to 2009 and the introduction of social networking features as the turning-point for Moshi Monsters. He explained: “The penny-drop moment for us was when we realised that kids loved communicating and showing off and being creative and chatting to their friends online just as much as grown-ups do. We felt that if we could build safe social tools that enabled kids to do all these things, we could build something as large in the kids space as Facebook has in the adult space.”

In 2010 it received a PR boost when Sarah Brown, wife of the then Prime Minister, revealed that her two young sons were huge fans – so much so that she had to ban the game during family time on Sundays. However, engaging such a young audience in online gaming is a sensitive endeavour, and Mind Candy emphasise their commitment to child safety online: players registering must have their parents’ consent, and cannot share photos or send private messages on the site.

In the same interview, Acton Smith said: “What we wanted was to create an environment where kids could be kids, where they could be creative, connect with each other but not to the extent where it was a wild west where anything goes. So we use a series of pre- and post-moderation, we use software filtering, we have buttons where kids can report anything they see that they are not comfortable with. But they also do have a fair amount of creative freedom.”

LINKS

Moshi Monsters

Mind Candy

LINKS TO ADDITIONAL VIEWING

Hey Moshi! – Moshi Monsters music video

Tutpup – Mind Candy multi-player game to develop maths skills in games with children all over the world

Perplex City – Mind Candy’s first project. Award-winning international cross-media treasure hunt.

OTHER

Michael Acton Smith in the Observer

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