ZooKaZoo steps out of Stealth

welcome ZooKazoo, a Flash-based world for 6-12 year-olds that’s just emerged from stealth mode.It’s headed up by CEO John Kim, who’s ex Sony and Disney, and also on board is former Apple man David Dwyer. The world is free to join, and like its rivals, has its own virtual currency – Kazoobits – which users earn by playing games. However, if they want to then spend that currency on customising their avatar or room, they have to pay a monthly subscription of $5.95. Correction: their parents have to pay a monthly subscription…

There’s lots of mini-games, as you’d expect, and it’s all based around cartoon animals. All chats are public, and users in the world can send messages to people outside it – for example parents – although it doesn’t work the other way, for the safety of users. Interestingly, music is a big part of the world, with original tunes composed by ZooKazoo’s staff. There’s even plans to have a UGC element, with users able to upload videos to the ZooTube theater.

ZooKazoo virtual world for tweens emerges from stealth mode | VWF blog | Virtual Economic Forum Content Library

Well, they’re out of stealth! Stealth is such an odd place to be. How many of us are still in Stealth? I’m jealous of their out-of-stealth mode and look forward to the day when we can do the same. Ah well, on to Zookazoo:

There’s things to love, things to work on, and things to watch for improvement as their beta carries on. Overall– it’s like a flashback to the Magic Kingdom jungle area & future area. A mix of decade genre styles with silliness and visual amusements (especially the tiki area & the dark cave with the flashing eyes– very Splash Mountain).

With only 5 or 6 options for avatar (a corn head, a dog, a monkey, a bubble–which turns out to be a roll of toilet paper with eyes HA!, etc), it automatically sticks you in genderless pretendville. For the most part– loads of the individual characters & animations remind me of Cartoon Network (I swear there was a Corn Head in Fosters…. OH WAIT! The corn head is from Jaks and the Power of JuJu on Nickelodeon– the judge was a corncob head). Regardless, the characters & animations are cute and adventurous. FINALLY– a virtual world who has voice overs that don’t sound condescending. Plus the music is fun and not stick-a-pencil-in-my-cornea annoying (like say… a certain beary pawsome virtual world).

It’s a little too “vast” for my preference– with the scroll screen and large rooms, they must plan on packin’ a lot of kids in one server? And there are a lot of barriers to entry for play– foyers and halls and teleportation and maps all to get to a theme world. Interesting method, but a little too long to get where I want to go.

Free members can’t do too much customizations, but from the “tour” of the rooms, the things I saw looked wicked (love the lava table & the tiki fountain).

In registration & account information, there’s a lot of thought to parents. And the registration process was swift enough (although, took a few pages of content to get started). Parents can dig in and opt for their child to use pre-written messages if they do not like the default “filtered” chat.

Some parts feel very young, some feel fantastically funny, and some so-so. Of course, it’s still beta, so they can continue to improve, etc, as they go.

There is a strong sense of animal appreciation & nature support (at least in the Jungle area), with young games like help the baby cheetah find it’s momma. Kids can send ecards that have facts about endangered animals (I was TOTES one of those kids hopped up on saving the wildlife as a kid– my favorite board game was called “Endangered Species” and was a lot like Life).

There are a bunch of monkeys wandering the virtual world with the conspicuous titles of “monkeyface” and “monkeyman”– which makes my moderator senses tingle with “there are screeners amongst us”, either that or behind the scenes folks doing AQ– awesome.

The login process is relatively quick, and I can’t help but wonder if they push the screen names through filters without moderator eyes on them. But then again, that’s an impression– they could have my name ghosted so to ME it says my username, but to others says something else. Personally, I just like having a second pair of eyes on any username– they stick around a lot longer than a fly by statement.

I’m interested to see how the membership model works for them as they build their relatively new brand. There’s a good bit of customizing that a member can’t do without a paid subscription, which takes that element out for the user all together– making them focus on roaming, games, and watching the amusements.

Question to ponder: Do parents chose to put a credit card down for unknown, new worlds without ties to trusty brands? I dunno.

It’s fun to watch new virtual worlds come out for our competitive market — each takes something others have done & expand on it, making it better, or presenting a unique approach. The menu system, the mail system, and the foyer-amusements for example. You can add voice overs and the tour of rooms to that mix.

I’d say the age group is geared more towards the 6 & 7 year old– especially as a lot of the tween sites coming target the 10, 11 demographic (aging things up). There’s a sweetness to this world, and a youthful silliness. Again, it’s not BOOM out of water awesome like I’m expecting FusionFall to be, but it’s a nice alternative for those who want to have something sweet, safe, and amusing for their 6-9 year old OTHER than Webkinz.

As for the community elements, time will tell. Not too much to make me want to interact, share with others, play, talk, get invested, etc. And again, it feels a little TOO vast, and a little TOO unfocused at times to support any range of interaction that Club Penguin may have– but again, those things can change through Beta. It’s worth taking a peek at and watching.

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  1. Josh K.
    April 5, 2008 at 3:09 am

    Just thought I’d let you know that the first link to ZooKazoo in the quote is busted. It points to Zakazoo.com instead of ZooKazoo.com.

  2. April 8, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    I like zookazoo, but i agree with u about it being “vast”. I thought they could make it a little speedier…don’t really need those long corridors.

  3. April 10, 2008 at 5:35 am

    Thanks for the postcard, now I’ve got to get the time to get in there and poke around and check it out. Which reminds me, have you reviewed Hulala yet? Need to get in there too…the wahine here from the islands needs to pop in ‘da kine’ world and ‘surf it, shake it’ as they say. 😉 Let me know if you delve in deeper…no darn time lately! sigh…

  4. Vary
    April 18, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    I know this is a kind of old post, but I’ve been poking around ZooKazoo as well, and I’m curious how you, as a community moderation-type, feel about the ‘brain questions’ scheme, where kids are encouraged to fill out a questionnaire – including their year of birth and what state they live in – which is then visible to anybody who clicks on their profile. Players are even specifically told that it’s important to give an accurate YOB for their own safety! To me, that just screams ‘ick’, but maybe I’m being over-cautious?

  5. April 18, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Vary– that’s a brill find. I didn’t manage to find the questionaire for “brain questions”. Yes, that seems a tad interesting… I’ll have to dig in and find out more. Thanks for spotting that!

  6. April 24, 2008 at 7:23 am

    Hmn…Lemme know too; sounds like tmi to me, even data-mining. Think I’d better enter with my tween and see where we land, and/or make a phone call to see what gives.

    We still need to do a ‘best practices’ post on info-sharing of profiles and moderator issues Izzy!! Ever-the backlogged blog slave…

  7. December 9, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    Hi Izzy,

    Your review of Zookazoo was in-depth and insightful.

    it would be great if could do such a detailed review of another virtual world for kids http://secretbuilders.com

    I’d love to hear what you have to say about them!

  1. May 29, 2008 at 6:46 pm

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