'Facebook for kids' creator enjoying monster success
More than 70 million youngsters have registered with the site, creating their own personalised “monsters” on the site. Offline, the project has also expanded, with a music label, a song coming up, toys, video games, trading cards and other items.
Moshi Monsters has been described as a Facebook for younger users, an assessment that its creator agrees with, at least in part.
“We allow them to send virtual gifts to their friends, share their artwork, talk about stories, and do all the fun things that kids want to do online, but at the same time keeping them safe,” Smith says.
That rules out sharing information like location, or sending photos, or allowing children to broadcast details of their movements.
The site offers two levels of membership: free, which offers access to most areas of the site, and subscription, which opens up premium features to players. It doesn’t reveal exactly how many paying members it has, although Smith says most would fall into the free category. The freemium model is obviously paying off, however; the latest accounts for the firm show turnover of £30 million for last year and profit of about £10 million.
“It’s quite healthy,” he said. “That money will allow us to invest in hiring new people and making more amazing entertainment going forward, not just Moshi Monsters.”
Such a young target audience also presents its own difficulties. “Creating entertainment for kids is really tough,” Smith says. “There’s a lot of different elements you have to get right.”
But Moshi Monsters seems to have hit on the right formula. It relies on a mixture of engaging characters with great artwork and storylines, underpinned by strong technology for its success.
“At the end of the day, kids loved it,” he says. “They get a kick out of it, and they want to share it with their friends. That’s what has enabled it to grow so quickly.”
Winning over parents hasn’t been as difficult as you would expect either, at least not “in the early days when we were setting up – in 2007-2008 – I think there was more resistance from parents, teachers and journalists”, he says. “But I think people have realised now the internet and technology is a very important and healthy part of a modern childhood. This is the world these children are growing up in. We shouldn’t keep them off the web.”
There is another important consideration: the security of Moshi Monsters’ users. Mind Candy has to be careful to proactively protect its young audience. Smith says it’s a challenging aspect of the business to strike a balance between keeping users safe while still affording them some freedom.