Via Raph Koster's website, news of the launch of a most unusual virtual world: Chipuya Town. Developed by the Media Groove company, it's an online space aimed at Japanese teenagers addicted to their cell phones.
Users create a custom avatar, then step into a cute-ified version of Tokyo's Shibuya shopping district that's accurate right down to the advertising overload. (Companies pay up to $4,000 a month for ads on in-world billboards.) Players socialize with other avatars and rack up currency - called Grooves - by recruiting friends, going on treasure hunts, and attending sponsored events.
The launch comes after a summer-long beta period, which was as much about attracting advertisers as it was users. The mobile site Infinita has a better look at the minimal gameplay on offer in the product, as well as its positioning in the marketplace. The site believes that Media Groove is positioning the VW as a direct competitor to the mobagetown offering.
While Chipuya Town doesn't feature mobile games (as opposed to mobagetown), it does seem to have a more advanced virtual economy, and to be taking a cross-platform approach: In an Second Life-inspired take, users can use a free PC-based Flash application to actually create avatar items such as clothes and avatar home accessories themselves, that they can then use for own their own avatars or sell to others.