No – they are not the same company.
Sadly Kiwi Melissa Clark-Reynolds’ MiniMonos is closing down. It’s a virtual world for kids full of monkeys, and seems to have had a good run, so this is a tough time for Melissa and her team. The tag line is “love to play, love the planet” and it was aimed at younger folk.
The problem was stated as losing member numbers. My take is that their target market was ever changing, as kids grow up, which means the site would have to constantly get a new generation of kids on board. Meanwhile the technology and gaming world moved quickly on to the next thing, in this case iPods, iPads and iPhones. It seems that their outstanding customer service and other efforts came at a cost that was to high versus their declining revenue.
Meanwhile similarly named MinoMonsters is hiring engineers. Here’s their web home page, which simply points to their iPhone app:
and that app on iTunes is doing very well:
2446 reviews, a very high rating along with that and a long list of potential in-game purchases. This looks like it’s well loved and making good money. The game promises that you can “collect, raise and battle your way to greatness”, and is aimed at everyone.
Aside from the names and cartoon look, it is a little random to compare these two businesses. But doing is interesting to show how the world has moved.
I see three definitive differences between the games:
- MiniMonos is Flash based, aimed at kids using computers, while MinoMonsters is iOS based, aimed at people using iPhones and iPads. While Flash is still surprisingly huge, the world has shifted hard towards Flash-less mobile devices.
- MiniMonos is a wander around and touch world aimed at small kids, MinoMonsters has battle element and is attractive to people of all ages. Older people have more money to spend and ability to spend it.
- MiniMonos is played in a virtual world with others, MinoMonsters on your own device in your own time. A virtual world needs other people in it to interact with, and once others start disappearing the reasons to stay evaporate. iOS games have various techniques to bring in gaming with friends and strangers, but they are often playable when the other party is offline.
So what should MiniMonos do?
It looks like they have done the right things.
Firstly they have launched not one but two iOS applications. The first, MiniMonos Flight was released in 2010, panned by the handful of reviewers, and best left alone. The second, MonkeyMe, which seems to have just been released, seems much better. It has 7 reviews in the US store, all positive, and while the cynic in me discounts the first few reviews, the current paying customers if MiniMonos will come across to try out their free coins. The app lets players create monkey avatars, share them with friends and enter a daily competition. It’s an interesting approach that keeps the community aspect of MiniMonos while allowing offline play. Time will tell how it works out, but at the very least it will be a lot lower cost and maintenance than the MiniMonos flash site.
Secondly they made the hard call and closed down the MiniMonos site. It’s hard to watch something that you have poured a lot of money and effort into get switched off, but it’s the right thing to do as it frees up that time and money to focus on other internal or external work. If the paying customer numbers are not rising, or start to fall, then in general teams need to take a hard look at the reason why, and either change things up or walk away.
And thirdly they will surely try again. There are a lot of learnings on the path to failure, and while the iOS app may or may not be too late, the MiniMonos team no doubt has plenty of other ideas to dive into.
Such a shame, I was just reading about MiniMonos and Melissa’s story in the recently published Young NZ’s Guide to Entrepreneurship.
Thanks Lance, sadly Tom Pullar-Strecker didn’t answer any of my emails when I sent him the news last week so the reasoning in the paper was pretty much pulled out of the air, along with all the numbers.
Ultimately the reason we are closing down the VW is that we no longer believe it is possible to build a profitable flash based browser driven VW. The closure of similar worlds recently (Pandanda being the most recent) is just the beginning, and we know that traffic to the larger sites (eg Poptropica, Club Penguin) is not what it used to be. The profitable worlds are making all their profit from licensing, and we (along with our licensing partners) feel that digital properties can be built from an iOS base, and not just online.
Your analysis is spot on. We have been grappling for a long time with the move to tablets. Last year we thought a lot about what it is that kids like about VWs – and it is the social interaction in real time. I have answered hundreds of emails, blog mentions, tweets, FB posts this week and the kids are unanimous in that what they will miss the most is the community, and the way we made them feel. That is a hard call for an app. There are a few people trying to move the VW experience to the tablet, but I think the tech is a long long way from making that satisfactory.
We have a series of apps in the works. The MiniMonosflight app a couple of years ago was really a play around by us to see how our code would port, and we abandoned that approach. MonkeyMe is also a test app – it was a great way for us to move to Cocos2d-x and to re-use our art assets. A low risk approach. It has also given us a way to learn about releasing an app, and all the sdks etc required. We are waiting to see if our shareholders will support the pivot. We have designs for several games which build on our IP and hopefully will appeal to our community & demographic.
As you say, it is heartbreaking, and gut wrenching. We have been well supported by the Kiwi Angel community and no-one sets out to fail at a start-up. Like you, we hope we haven’t pivoted too late.
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What emails? After a colleague noticed the blog on MiniMonos website, I left a message on Melissa Clark-Reynolds cellphone and later went round to MiniMonos’ Blair St offices and talked to MiniMonos cto Greg Montgomery. All the numbers in the story were either given by him or from previous (uncontested) stories and were not plucked out of the air. The explanation Greg gave me about the closure of the virtual world was reported in the paper and was essentially as related above by Lance above, and again by you again in this post. If you feel there were any inaccuracies in the story, please feel free to contact me. In case you don’t have my email address it is: email@example.com, My direct dial, as per my voice mail message is: 04 474 0552.
I have forwarded you the emails again Tom. No messages on my skype, UK mobile, or email. My understanding is that my NZ mobile has a message asking people to email, I really apologise if that isn’t the case. We should take this offline, it detracts from the key message in Lance’s blog.
iOS is not the complete answer. Android tablets are catching up fast. On phones, Android already has more devices and the same will happen to tablets. They’re generally cheaper than the Apple gear and just as functional. Be wary of getting stuck in an Apple ghetto. I’m no hater BTW, I love my iMac to bits. But there’s good reason why I haven’t gone to Lion or beyond – Apple’s decisions remove my options.
So in highlighting MiniMonsters above and that it’s growing, there is an important absence in that the difference between MiniMonos and MiniMonsters is the effort by the former to actually support young people to be better citizens on this finite planet.
That’s a very good point. The seemingly negative relationship between “good for you” and “awesome” from a kid’s perspective is a hard one to crack. Or as it was put at Webstock by Clay Johnson “Pizza is better than Broccoli”.
Minecraft might have the answer to the pizza or broccoli dilemma.
What I find interesting about Minecraft is the different ways of playing it (modes) and the number of different platforms it is available on. My 11 yr old daughter started on creative mode on a PC & quickly moved to an iPad and now switches between platforms and modes including multiplayer. The boys at her school mostly played in Survival mode which she sometimes does as well.
What was striking to me was that minecraft is still being played after nearly 2 years by most of those kids but in different modes and on different platforms in most cases.
Miss 11 is very visual / spatially oriented but it does seem that minecraft has managed to appeal to a wide range of kids ( & adults) and that seems to have lasted for a much longer period of time than all of the other games so far.
She tried the flying monkeys game for a while and when much smaller did the club penguin & similar games plus was quite keen on SIMs for a while there too.
To me MInecraft looks a bit of a mess but that open “enededness” seems to be part of its appeal for the kids and if I was re-framing any kind of online game I would look much more closely at that one.
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So what about all the annual subs that users have lost???
Hey Jim, we have given members special privileges in our MonkeyMe app – http://blog.minimonos.com/gobananas/2013/04/redeem-your-monkey-coins-in-monkeyme.html
If you have an annual membership and want to discuss it, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org
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