Barbiegirls Vs the *COMING SOON* Virtual world Be-Bratz
On Aug. 1, MGA Entertainment will release Be-Bratz.com, a virtual world based on the Bratz dolls, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The site is targeted at girls 8 to 12. Barbiegirls.com, which has been online since April, has over three million registered users, though there are reports that it may not be able to sustain growth. 95% of registered users on
Barbiegirls.com are 8 and older, Mattel says. Both platforms are unique in that they not only target children through a virtual world, they do it through real-world toys.
The Be-Bratz site is accessible only through a $29.99 Bratz doll that comes with a USB key. BarbieGirls is available for free to anyone who wants to play, though certain areas and experiences will be off-limits to users who haven’t purchased a $59.99 Barbie-shaped MP3 player.
The two worlds are competing for users, but Barbie may have the upper hand. The Journal reports that the MP3 player tie-in is part of a goal to win back older girls who prefer consumer electronics to dolls.
That might be wise. In a similarly themed story, the New York Times reported today that “While sales of dolls, action figures and outdoor toys are down, electronics sales to children were up 16.6 percent over the last two years as of May, the latest month available from the NPD Group, a research firm that tracks retail trends. The total toy industry’s annual sales were up just 0.8 percent in May, compared with two years ago.”
In Be-Bratz, users will be able to choose a screen name and customize a Bratz avatar. They’ll also have the opportunity to buy virtual clothes through an online store with currency earned by playing Bratz games.
BarbieGirls will launch in five languages, including Spanish and Portuguese, in late August, and Mattel says that about 40% of the current beta users are outside of the U.S. Neither company would told the Journal the costs of the platforms, but both invested in two-year research and development time lines, in-house design operations, outside programmers, and focus groups.
Well, we all know Barbiegirls basically rocks. Indeed.
Interesting that barbiegirls went for the free first, pay for later; and that Be Bratz will go for the pay first.
Personally– I like the barbiegirls mentality. They’ve REALLY put a lot into the market strategy. It allows young girls to log SAFELY and for FREE into the Virtual World (which has gotten GREAT press & everyone I’ve talked to loves it). If you like what you see, and you want more Barbie products (because by this point you’re in that VW every day and bordering a Brand Evangelist), you’ll shell out the big bucks to buy the Barbie MP3 player to tie into the new cool content only available for those who have the tech. They also took the time to study doll & tech trends and try a unique to-market plan with that MP3 player.
As for Be-Bratz… it will be interesting to see how the site looks & feels. In recent Bratz articles (been a few lately, thanks to the movie), they’ve mentioned how the Bratz-powers-that-be are trying to tone down the hoochie look of the girls (in movies & if you look at the dolls in the new commercials, you can see it). This is a GREAT step. A lot of the parents & 7/8 year olds I’ve talked to say that they aren’t allowed to have Bratz dolls– and if they have one– it’s only because they got it at a B-day party. I’ve had yellow-flag-feelings for Bratz dolls from back in the day as a camp counselor– the girls would come in hoochie, belly-bearing, cheek-peekin’ outfits and cover themselves in make-up. Uck. I for one am not really “jazzed” by anything that encourages little girls to believe that they must be sarcastic over-sexed street-corner-models in order for others to think they’re sassy, beautiful, independent, sophisticated, and clever. Ugh.
Anyway… so, I will definitely do a write-up on the Be-Bratz site (as soon as I get my heads on one of the dolls with the code & it goes live). 🙂
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