As a user of the MoiPal virtual world, you have an avatar called your “Pal.” He or she will do things even when you’re not around. In MoiPal, you do not travel around the virtual world. Instead, your avatar acts as an agent, responding to your commands.
MoiPal says it is hoping to grow from 100,000 to 1 million users in 2009. To facilitate this growth, the company will focus on the younger demographic. From a monetization standpoint, it hopes to sell virtual goods sponsored by musical acts, all of which will be payable from a mobile device. As MoiPal sees it, young people tend to be among the most active mobile users. They also follow the latest music more aggressively than older consumers.
MoiPal is currently running a campaign to recruit these users to its virtual worlds by embedding widgets on participating bands’ MySpace pages that, when clicked on, allow potential users to create a new avatar. As an incentive, anyone that registers for MoiPal using one of these widgets receives band-themed virtual goods for their avatar to wear. In addition, MoiPal runs contests and gives away sponsored goods as rewards to encourage user engagement.
Moipal is “thinking about doing revenue share kind of deals with the bands,” says Joakim Achren, founder and CEO of MoiPal’s parent company, Ironstar Helsinki. “For now, it’s interesting to get the bands and the artists, to get this new kind of engagement with the audience through the virtual merchandise. It’s like the band suddenly has its own game. It’s something most of the bands and record labels have had an idea for, to give the band its own game, and we come up with the solution for them.”
MoiPal has also focused on mobile payments as its main technology to manage transactions. It receives premium SMS text payments from European users. For United States users, though mobile payments are available via Zong, most Americans still pay using credit cards or PayPal, which MoiPal supports.
The company hopes to see the number of mobile payments increase, however, since it has tied a lot of its user growth, especially in Europe, to that payment method. Based on a post by Virtual Goods News, “nearly all of MoiPal’s Eastern European users are serviced by a single mobile payment service called Fortumo.”
But mobile payments systems don’t work well everywhere. In Southeast Asia, for instance, MoiPal can’t find a dominant mobile payment provider like the ones found in Europe and the U.S.
“There’s no service there where you can just create an account on the web and pick out what price point you want,” Achren says. “You really have to talk to the people, meet them, and give estimates of what you’ll make. Zong and Fortumo just give you the right to start doing stuff straight away, and you don’t have to give them forecasts of how much money you’re going to make. The mobile providers are very good for start-ups.”