Friday, April 20, 2007

BarbieGirls MMOG Launches

This past Tuesday, Mattel launched the BETA site for its new MMOG-environment, BarbieGirls.com, with plans to unveil the entire "Barbie Girls™" platform later this month (April 26). In its current form, the site/game/community reminds me quite a bit of Habbo Hotel: players customize avatars (a bit of a game in itself considering the large amount of options available...a bit like doll play in and of itself), decorate their rooms, and occupy space with other players, enabling chat (though likely in a controlled form), collaboration and (potentially) role-play. Here's the description from the Mattel press release:
Designed to be a safe place for girls to play and interact online, the beta version of BarbieGirls.comSM gives girls the creative power to customize their own virtual character, design their own "room," shop at the mall, play games, hang out and chat live with other girls. Later this month, the entire Barbie Girls™ platform and the full range of the BarbieGirls.comSM Web site features will be revealed at a global launch event.

Mattel has had a long, and somewhat underreported, success in the creation of "girls games," particularly online. It's previous portal site, Everythinggirl.com (launched in 2000) has consistently ranked among the highest rated/most frequented websites among girls aged 2 to 11 years (Nielsen/Netratings, 2002; Nielsen/Netratings, 2003a) as well as among children aged 2 to 12 (Oser, 2005). By 2004, Everythinggirl and its sub-sites were attracting over 36 million visits a month (The NPD Group, 2004), a number that has since grown to 65 million monthly visitors--mostly young girls. And years ago, Mattel held the record for fastest selling game, Barbie Fashion Designer, which sold more than 500,000 copies its first two months, out-stripping the records then-established by more recognized titles like Doom and Quake. While certainly problematic in its gender representation, I find it fascinating that the Barbie games have received so little academic and public attention...particularly given the ongoing focus within both realms on the alleged lack of female interest in digital gaming, etc.

As mentioned above, the site launches on April 26th, but as of April 17th, you can check out the site in BETA form here.

You can also read the full Mattel press release here.

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