Avatar technology comes to mobile phones
December 12, 2006 8, 2006: The news of the coming of the first avatar-based mobile game from CBS Interactive and Hong Kong-based Artificial Life (a regular subject of our stories such as the Virtual Girlfriend V1.0 and V2.0, and the development of the first Massive Multi Player 3G Game) is exciting indeed. CBS Interactive will launch the first avatar-based mobile game tied to a major TV show for The CW's America's Next Top Model. The mobile game which enables avatars (virtual characters ) to live on user's cell phones is the first of many mainstream uses for Avatars which many futurists feel will ultimately represent the real time embodiment of people in cyberspace and lead to meaningful on-line community – for people of any common pursuit, regardless of whether it’s business or personal. These are the first fledgling steps of a future three dimensional superstar – YOU in zeroes and ones, and the first inhabitants of cyberspace. Avatars are already widely used in Internet chat rooms, allowing people to be represented by an image, that masks their actual character, behaviour and even gender.
To play the "America's Next Top Model" game, players select a virtual representation of his/her favorite and least favorite contestants from the show. The main task is for users to interact with these selected virtual characters -- known as avatars -- as if they were real participants of the TV show. This means players must foster their avatar's modeling career through training and various challenges. The selection of the least favorable character allows players to play tricks on her.
The game for the upcoming 2007 season will also have a viral, player-to-player component where users must send their avatar "on vacation" to a friend's cell phone, thus ceasing to take care of their own character for a while. When sent, the friend will see the character knocking on his/her cell phone screen with a suitcase in hand. If they welcome the avatar in, they will take on the responsibility of taking take care of her for a set amount of time. This send-a-character-on-vacation-to-a-friend option is likely to serve as a teaser to bring new players into the game.
"We are pleased to be joining forces with Artificial Life, one of the best mobile avatar gaming companies out there, to bring the international phenomenon of Avatars to the U.S.," said Roeding, who also oversees mobile operations for The CW. "'America's Next Top Model' is a natural jumping off point for us to introduce this gaming technology given the show's young and mobile-savvy demographic. This offering furthers our strategy of extending our top brands and content to multiple platforms."
In the U.S., the game will be available to Cingular and Sprint users depending on their cell phone. These consumers can download the game by going to either www.cwtv.com, www.botme.com or by sending a text message to a five-digit number advertised via commercials on The CW network.
As part of the agreement with CBS Interactive, Artificial Life will develop several mobile games over a license period of two years.
"We are very excited about this product launch and the opportunity of working with one of the world's leading media companies to produce leading edge mobile games based on such a well known and globally popular TV shows as 'America's Next Top Model' on the CW," said Eberhard Schoeneburg, CEO of Artificial Life, Inc. "After the initial launch in the US we will also launch the game in many other countries around the globe."
In the U.S., the "America's Next Top Model" mobile Avatar game will be available for an initial price of $5.99 to download the game. The game will be compatible with most mobile phones though some features of the game, storylines and general functionality will vary among wireless devices.
CBS Interactive oversees mobile operations for The CW, a joint venture between Warner Bros Entertainment and CBS Corporation. The CW launched in the fall of 2006 as the fifth broadcast network with a clear target of young adults 18-34. The division is part of CBS Corporation, a mass media company with constituent parts that reach back to the beginnings of the broadcast industry, as well as newer businesses that operate on the leading edge of the media industry.
The Company, through its many and varied operations, combines broad reach with well-positioned local businesses, all of which provide it with an extensive distribution network by which it serves audiences and advertisers in all 50 states and key international markets. It has operations in virtually every field of media and entertainment, including broadcast television (CBS and The CW -- a joint venture between CBS Corporation and Warner Bros. Entertainment), cable television (Showtime and CSTV Networks), local television (CBS Television Stations), television production and syndication (CBS Paramount Network Television and CBS Television Distribution Group), radio (CBS Radio), advertising on out-of-home media (CBS Outdoor), publishing (Simon & Schuster), digital media (CBS Interactive and CSTV Networks) and consumer products (CBS Consumer Products).