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March 18, 2008
Taking a SPiN with Freggers

By Paul Philleo

Virtual worlds designed for children are a high growth industry in connected social entertainment. That’s almost a certified fact in 2008. According to eMarketer research 53% of kids and teens are estimated to log in to virtual worlds by 2011, so it’s no wonder so many companies and developers are queuing up to join the likes of successful youth-oriented virtual worlds like Club Penguin and Habbo. Enter one more of these worlds into the increasingly populated fray: Freggers. Paul Schmid, CEO of the German-based social networking developer SPiN AG, loaned me a little free time after the Game Developers Conference had closed shop for 2008 to introduce MPOGD readers to their virtual world.

Developed by the German-based Spin AG, Freggers is a browser-based virtual world rendered in 2.5D Flash graphics. The isometric backdrops are 2D but look a bit above par for what you’d expect for a browser-based client. Objects and characters in the virtual world are rendered with 8-point 3D textures and animation, which gives these items eight points of view in 45 degrees in their space. Freggers users can expect to be given the ability to texture and design their own objects to customize their personal spaces.

The revenue stream will be geared toward item-based sales, advertising and strategic partnerships. It’s the creative possibilities of partnerships that seem to most interest Schmid, especially when making the most of the client’s ability to stream audio and video into any area of the game. “Freggers is perfectly suited for working with television content creators, especially youth-oriented programs. We can tie in television programs into Freggers to create play areas based on the source material for our audience.”

Schmid’s ideas echo a number of virtual worlds concepts, such as Entropia Universe that also aims to create spin-off worlds based on a real-world business or property. Falling more in line with other youth-oriented virtual worlds like Club Penguin and Xivio, however, Freggers audience starts at 13 and up and targets more teenager-friendly intellectual property.

While SPiN’s world even in its beta form is being framed as an ideal place to roll out branded areas for receptive kids, user-created content will also be a vital extension of the Freggers experience as was touched upon earlier. Second Life represents the gold standard for user-created content, if one has the time and skill to craft an item well. Still, the level of personalization in Freggers looks to be quite ambitious, particular for a virtual world with a web-based interface. Schmid is planning to make it possible for Freggers members to upload pictures onto personal items, like posters in a room or designs for clothing. The ability to create even more complex user-created and textured objects like chairs, tables, beds, etc., are also in the works. Of course, as children are intended to be a large part of the Freggers community, uploaded content will be strictly monitored. No red light districts or swaths of uncontrolled content will be permitted.

In spite of, or perhaps because of the audience, griefing hasn’t yet become a problem in Freggers. Chat filters and moderation have been the only tools needed to keep the beta community in check to this point. Also, since Freggers is more of an online sandbox and doesn’t incorporate traditional quests or a continuous story, there’s certainly less of likelihood that someone’s hard-earned online accomplishments could be disrupted by traditional game griefers.

During the beta period started since May 2007, the German version of Freggers has accumulated 250,000 users. Schmid was confident he could expand that measure of success elsewhere: “We’re going to localize several other versions of Freggers before the end of the year, because we think we’ve got a good opportunity in other European marketplaces and the American marketplace.”

Exploring the solemn halls of a museum. Don't touch anything!

Do you happen to have any wiener schnitzel, good man?

Illustrations of a couple of the avatars

Relaxing with your buddies in an open mall area

I don't want to guess what these guys are up to in a back alley

This is where the party's at and everyone's invited!

Paul Schmid, CEO of SPiN AG and his baby, Freggers


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