Hong Kong and San Francisco-based Frenzoo, which began life as an online social networking tool that delivered avatar-based 3D interaction experiences aimed at teens and young women, today announced a new round of $1 million in funding to help it switch gears and refocus on 3D mobile social gaming for women. The company is building on its existing assets to make this happen, and sees a strong opportunity to cater to a growing category of online gamers.
Frenzoo originally started out in 2007, securing early stage investment from four engineers who co-founded Skype. Back then, it provided an application users could download that would allow them to create a 3D avatar, dress it in clothing and interact with others in virtual environments via real-time networking and instant messaging. The company identified a new opportunity via its experience with that early stage product, according to CEO and co-founder Simon Newstead.
“Early last year we saw a tremendous opportunity with mobile taking off and gaming becoming interesting to a broader base of women of all ages, driven by the casual and social game players,” he said. “In operating our service, we realized that the most active users were women and the parts they enjoyed the most were shopping, fashion, creativity and self-expression – and that hadn’t been done on iOS or Android. We realized we had all the tech (a proprietary avatar platform build on top of Unity), fashion assets and experience that we needed to make this happen on mobile.”
Frenzoo’s offerings will be trying to bridge the gap between fashion online and fashion in the real-world, by allowing players to “try on” outfits via their virtual avatars, which Newstead said can “animate naturally, pose and show off unique outfits.” The company will release these games under the “Me Girl” brand, and Newstead said they see many possibilities for the brand beyond shopping and fashion. “We have plans for Me Girl games in other lifestyle segments as well – there are a lot of areas we are keen to make games in,” he said.
Frenzoo has some strong advisors and investors, including a Doug Glen, a board member who was previously Chief Strategy Officer of Mattel, and advisor Jasmine Webster, popular stylist and fashion blogger. The new $1 million investment comes from a variety of U.S. and Asia-based firms, including Efficient Corporate, Simer Ventures, K5 Ventures and Metaverse Services.
In terms of revenue, Frenzoo is looking first at the tried and tested method of freemium mobile apps that provide in-app purchases for access to certain features. Newstead said that the company also has had interest from brands, and might consider strategic partnerships in the future as another potential income source.
The market that Frenzoo is after is definitely one with a lot of potential. Women reportedly play more mobile games than men, according to a recent study, and social games, too. It’s also a market that has a lot of potential in terms of brand tie-ins and cross-promotion, if companies play their cards right. But Frenzoo isn’t alone in chasing this opportunity; competitor CrowdStar recently landed $11.5 million in funding to perform a similar shift with its own female-focused titles, and it will also partner with social gaming network Gree to help it expand its reach.
A lot of players, old and new, will be trying to corner this niche. It’ll be interesting to see if the potential proves worth the effort, and whether companies like Frenzoo focused more on mobile growth markets like Asia have more or less success than others.