Two years ago, Mind Candy was just another online gaming company. It had some minor success with interactive puzzles and an alternative reality game called Perplexcity, but the future wasn’t exactly bright. As entrepreneurs are wont to do, Mind Candy CEO Michael Acton Smith made one “last roll of the dice” and created a virtual world game for kids called Moshi Monsters. Though the move may have been a last ditch effort to save a stagnating company at the time, today the move seems a stroke of entrepreneurial genius.
On Monday, Mind Candy announced that Moshi Monsters has passed the 50 million registered users mark, with 15 million of those users in North America, and is one of the fastest growing children’s entertainment brands in the world. In February, Moshi Monsters had racked up 35 million users, so in less than 4 months, the game has added another 15 million.
For those unfamiliar, Moshi Monsters is a game that enables kids to adopt one of six virtual pet monsters that they can customize in various ways and add the monster to their own virtual room, which can be outfitted with virtual goods. Kids can then navigate their way around “Monstro City”, and solve puzzles to earn virtual currency, which they can use to personalize their monsters and their personal rooms, or communicate with friends in a social networking environment.
Geared towards kids 12-and-under, Acton told my colleague Erick Schonfeld that the idea behind Moshi Monsters was to create not “just another bloody virtual world”, but a safe social network. “Instead of copying Club Penguin,” he said, “we focused more on Facebook and tried to re-imagine that for kids.” As such, there is pin board where friends can leave messages and a news feed, but there are also games, quizzes and virtual world activities.
Part of Moshi Monsters exponential growth it seems is its movement into offline products, having launched toys, books, video games, trading cards, and even a “Moshi magazine” within the UK and Australia. Today, Mind Candy is announcing that children’s entertainment company, Spin Master, has become the startup’s U.S. toy partner and that Moshi Monsters toys will launch in North America this summer via an exclusive partnership with a major retail partner (to be announced soon).
Besides the fact that Moshi Monsters books from Scholastic and Topps trading cards are already on shelf in the U.S., the company is also working on music, live tours, TV shows — and even a Moshi Monsters film. It probably wouldn’t be crazy to speculate that Moshi Monsters Happy Meals are on the way, too.
From near-bankruptcy in 2008 to 50 million registered users and $100 million in expected gross retail sales in 2011, Mind Candy and its Moshi Monsters have pulled off quite an impressive turnaround. As younger generations continue to become more and more wired, activities thought reserved for older audiences are proving to be equally as appealing and successful among younger audiences. It will be interesting to see if Moshi Monsters can follow in the footsteps of Pokemon and become more than just a passing fad. If its crossover into offline markets flies, it could be that we have the next Barney on our hands.