Creators of ‘first virtual world for kids’ Animal Jam targets Gen Z teens with Fer.al debut – TechCrunch

Before kids move on to the vast virtual worlds in games like Roblox, Minecraft, and Fortnite, they often debut in online social games with a game like Animal jam. Here, children learn to personalize their avatar, explore a world, chat with other players, and trade items in a secure environment with parental controls. Today, the company behind this popular title, WildWorks, is releasing a new game, Wild, which builds on Animal Jam’s legacy while addressing a slightly older crowd of Gen Z teens.

“When we first started talking about Fer.al was the idea of ​​where the kids go when they get older outside of Animal Jam? Says Clark Stacey, co-founder and CEO of WildWorks. “Because there is no transitional space between a completely enclosed garden like Animal Jam and… Instagram and social networks and adult games which do not have these same protections,” he continues.

“We knew we wanted to provide a place for those older kids where the walls are a bit lower,” Stacey adds.

The new game is aimed at older children i.e. young teens aged around 13-18 who now choose their own games, have their own email address and do not need to parental authorization to play. Chat safeguards will not be as high on Fer.al as they are on Animal Jam and will focus more on preventing bullying and abuse than blocking words. Players will also be able to connect their online social accounts to their gaming accounts in the future.

Image credits: WildWorks

With Wild, WildWorks presents another animal-centric title, but this time it gets into the realm of fantasy. Players choose between bipedal humanoid creatures based on folklore and myth, including a Kitsune, Senri, Dragon, Jackelope, Werewolf, Kirin, or a Shinigami, with more to come.

The character style was inspired by Animal Jam fan art, Stacey says, where kids created animal avatars that were sort of a mix between manga, Animal Jam style, and other styles. older animation.

Like its predecessor, Fer.al players will also be able to customize their character and change their appearance, design their personal space (this time, a “sanctuary” instead of a “lair”), discover a world where they can interact. with other players, collect items and trade, and venture into quests. But the storyline has also evolved to reflect the interests of teens, including their growing understanding of social media and a desire to develop an online fan base.

The larger narrative involves a reality show where two queens at war, Aradia and Delilah – each with their own Instagram account, of course – are looking for control. The company doesn’t offer many details on how this narrative plays out in the long run, but it will involve weekly and monthly contests as the game ramps up, in addition to the daily missions and quests undertaken to earn ingredients. . to create new clothes or a new “glamor” (a rendering effect that goes around your character.)

Image credits: WildWorks

Much like Animal Jam – or even other virtual worlds like some Roblox games – players are expected to engage in cooperative play in order to progress. There will be tasks that you cannot accomplish on your own, which means that you will have to interact and chat. You will also be able to join factions, initially led by the two queens, as the game progresses.

Another notable aspect of Fer.al is that it is largely designed to meet the needs of girls.

“It’s certainly not meant to exclude boys in this age group,” says Stacey. “But we recognize the fact that among the most engaged Animal Jam players, it’s about 80% girls. We’ve looked at that pretty heavily in Animal Jam – we try to introduce a lot of women scientists and work with them on causes that promote girls in STEM. So we know that a lot of the integrated audience comes from it, ”he says.

“And I think the need that we’ve recognized is that it’s not difficult for teens to find online communities that are right for them. It’s quite difficult for girls to find the same. So as we create this community – from the rules to the visuals – we are very aware of it. And the people we go to and ask what works for you and what doesn’t, are mostly girls, ”he adds.

Image credits: WildWorks

Relying on Animal Jam’s fan base has been a boon to get Fer.al off the ground. Today, Animal Jam has between 2.5 and 4 million monthly active users out of a total of 135 million registered accounts. The gap between registered and active numbers is indicative of how many kids have grown up with Animal Jam since its launch in October 2010. But Stacey admits the title has also seen a decline since peak use.

Still, it looks like there’s a lot of interest in what WildWorks will do next.

Within a week of the launch of the Fer.al website, 75,000 children had signed up to become beta testers. Testers were introduced slowly in the beta, starting in April 2020, and initially on desktop only. Now the beta of the game sees daily assets in the 10,000s before launch. On the Apple App Store and Google Play, more than 100,000 people have also signed up for the pre-release.

Like Animal Jam, Fer.al will offer a freemium experience. But while Animal Jam has generated nearly 80% of its revenue from subscriptions, Fer.al will use a season pass monetization model. Users purchase the season – priced at around $ 10 to $ 20 – through an in-app purchase, which will unlock unique items and experiences specific to that season. He plans to launch around seven seasons a year.

Image credits: WildWorks

The company didn’t offer seasons until later in the beta test, but Stacey said the conversion rate was “at the top of our expectations so far on desktops.” If conversion rates on mobile remain as high as on desktop, it will be in the range to start investing in user acquisition, he says. The business may also consider announcements at a later date as well as merchandise, if all goes well.

WildWorks (formerly Smart Bomb Interactive), headquartered in Salt Lake City, is majority owned by Signal Peak Ventures, which has invested more than $ 20 million in the company over the years. The company changed in 2008 to focus on its own intellectual property, which led to the launch of Animal Jam and other titles.

Over the past few years, WildWorks’ revenue – mostly from Animal Jam and another game, Tag with Ryan – has ranged from over $ 20 million to under $ 30 million. If Fer.al is able to successfully capture Animal Jam graduates looking to transition to “older kids” gameplay, it could dramatically increase that revenue base.

Fer.al is launched publicly today in all countries and will initially be available in English. It can be played on PC, Mac, iOS and Android.


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