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Japanese comics known as “anime” have become popular among young Americans. And TinierMe is planning on capitalizing on that with the launch of its anime-focused virtual world.
After six months of beta testing, TinierMe is formally launching its virtual world today. The U.S.-based virtual world is a separate version of a two-million strong virtual world in Japan. Already, thanks to the beta test, the English-language version of TinierMe has 700,000 registered users, said Masaru “Nogi” Ohnogi, chief executive of the company, which is owned by Japan’s GCREST.
Hardcore online gamers are not the target audience. Rather, the main users are females under 20. They’re drawn to the cute animation style and fashion focus of the world.
“We’re seeing that anime is gaining in popularity and making its way into U.S. culture in a big way,” said Ohnogi.
But there are big headwinds for this kind of business, which was more fashionable a couple of years ago. Lots of young audiences have migrated to social games on Facebook, while numerous virtual worlds have tanked.
Within the world, you can create your own avatar — dubbed a “Selfy” — in cute anime style and explore a world full of Japanese anime and culture. You can play various mini games and participate in various events that follow the Japanese festival calendar, such as the spring Cherry Blossom Festival. You can wander through a town, shop, chat or participate in community forums. In that way, the world bears close resemblance to Gaia Online, an online virtual world for teens that is also inspired by Japanese anime. Of course, Gaia Online has a very American focus.
Ohnogi said his company hopes to differentiate itself with a more authentic focus on anime and Japanese culture. The world is free-to-play, which means players can play for free and pay real money for virtual goods. There are already 30,000 fashion items available to buy in the game, with 400 new ones appearing every month. You can also adopt pets, collect items and trade them. The U.S. subsidiary was founded in October, 2009 and has four employees.