True gaming is coming to FashTech through 3D engines, sophisticated algorithms, tablets, and just plain cool design, and Frenzoo is leading the way. With 1 million downloads in their first month of release on the iPad, Frenzoo’s “Me Girl” is turning fashion and gaming on their respective heads. Based in Hong Kong, and now part of the Yetizen Accelerator, Frenzoo is fast becoming a defining force in fashtech as a gaming company. SFFT sat down with CEO Simon Newstead to get the insight on how a gaming company found itself in the fashion space and the whole new virtual world opening up before us.
1. I’m sure this first question is somewhat common by now, but we’re interested – Frenzoo is a gaming company, how did you get into fashtech?
Given our focus on fashion and lifestyle games for women, we were keen to get to network and meet more of the fashion:tech community in the bay area. Our whole proposition is to bring the worlds together, given that women are the largest market of mobile gamers yet there is a dearth of high quality content specifically made for them. So when we got the introduction to Charles and Fash:Tech we were keen to engage.
2. Me Girl is the first 3D engine fashion game, can you explain what it means to use a 3D engine and how you are different from other fashion games?
To date, all the fashion games on mobile have been 2d based, which basically means games that look flat and simplistic. Animations tend to be very limited (due to the way the fashions are produced in only specific layouts) which restricts the ability to do varied fashion poses, catwalks, angles of photography etc. With a 3d approach, it means more flexibility and a higher level of realism of the clothes- being able to zoom in and see the details of the fabric and colors, and have freedom to have the characters move exactly how you want.
3. Me Girl lets users purchase digital goods, an area that is exploding in gaming. Can you share some of your vision for the growth of digital goods marketplace on Me Girl?
I see great opportunity to extend the Me Girl marketplace to be cross game but also cross brand. The first Me Girl™ game today, Style Me Girl for iOS, Google Play and Amazon Kindle Fire has over 1000 fashions and is already set up to be able to support branded content. That is an interesting proposition, taking real world fashions into gaming in a natural and fun way, rather than just as a banner within a game. The opportunities to extend from there and go into ecommerce in either a sponsored or whitelabel approach (essentially being the interactive/3d catalog of the future) are fascinating. For example being able to model entire outfits, play with them, take photos and then see at the tap of a button where the nearest shop is or link to buy and ship the item online.
4. Me Girl is one of the top games on the iPad, 1 million downloads in the first month! That’s amazing, congratulations. Can you share with us what you’re learning about your users and their behavior?
We’re learning that when you make fashion a game, the engagement factor goes up dramatically. We have players who obsess about repeating photoshoots to get ever higher scores and perfect 3 star results. The key is the flexibility of mix and match, and being able for example to layer multiple pieces together to create complex and unique looks. The free form photography mode is also proving popular, as is creating outfits – over 15 million have been made in the few short weeks after launch.
5. You’ve talked about working with brands and retailers. This has been a popular approach to getting fashion influencers on board. Can you tell us how you’re approaching partnerships with retailers and what value they receive from working with Frenzoo?
Good question. Our strategy at first is to build a beachhead in gaming with our own Me Girl™ branded fashions and build a user base in 2012, then be able to leverage that with the retailers / brands in a more structured way. We already have strong interest from different parties (online retailers, large brands) but have been careful not to overextend ourselves too early. The deals we’re considering now are more strategic ones rather than trying to build pipeline from all over. We’re definitely off to a good start on the first step though of building up an audience of millions of fashion conscious mobile trend setters.
6. Without going too deep into your secret plans to take over the virtual world, can you share with us some of your future plans for Me Girl and what the industry can expect?
Sure. We have an ambitious goal to pioneer 3d lifestyle entertainment for women around the world. That’s an addressable market today of over 200 million. The strategy is to build Me Girl™ into an iconic brand along with growing the audience into many millions within the next 6-12 months. Expect to see several new games from Me Girl™ this year branching out from a fashion core into different adjacent genres. Think celebrities, glamorous lifestyles, excitement of living in the big city. We also want to push the envelope with the technology, extending our 3d platform capabilities even further.
7. The gaming industry is very established and sophisticated, and there are several companies who have moved into (and seen success) in the fashion world. Do you see the gaming industry influencing the fashtech industry? If so, how?
Yes I do. I think we’re now only at the very early days and there is a big blue ocean of opportunity. Women in America are spending untold hours playing games on mobile and interacting with avatars and virtual goods all day long. Yet only a minuscule amount are branded, yet many of these games are free to play with a majority of players not directly buying using real cash. So there is a big opportunity, particularly with 3d to match together the brand/retail advertisers with an audience of highly engaged players. That’s the clear opportunity and what we need are platforms to bring them together, such as what we’re doing with Me Girl™. if you think about it, why only provide a fashion catalog when you can have the consumer virtually try on the items. And then why not take it further and let them do catwalks and photoshoots. Then why not add fun and purpose by tying it into a game. There are many great use cases to bring gaming to fash:tech.
8. Frenzoo is part of YetiZen (a startup accelerator that works with gaming companies). How are gaming companies (and their investors) seeing opportunities in the fashion space?
There really aren’t many gaming companies at all focussed on fashion, and even fewer in a way that can get retailers truly excited. So it’s a wide open new market, and whenever there are new markets there are plenty of opportunities. We hope to pioneer this space and to date the feedback from investors has been excellent (we recently closed a $1M seed round to scale up our activities and launches)
9. As a gaming company, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced working in fasthech?
Well as a gaming company coming into the fash:tech space it is a very different culture as well as network of people. To date there hasn’t been much overlap between the two world, hence why groups like fash:tech are very helpful in bringing the two groups of folks together and making the transition easier. For a fash:tech person to know about core addiction loops and a gaming person to know about inventory management at retail.. there is a need to onboard people from both sides. That’s been a challenge personally but a fun one and there are definitely a group of folks in fash:tech who “get it”.
10. Another cool thing about Frenzoo, you’re based in Hong Kong, and Hong Kong is a large market for fashion, ecommerce, and other technologies. How does the fashtech industry in Asia differ from the US? What trends should we know about?
In Hong Kong, given the high density of accomodation mixed with retail, ecommerce hasn’t taken off locally. Which is interesting given in other respects hong Kong is one of the most advanced markets for tech adoption in the world (eg second highest per capita smartphone usage) On the otherhand, ecommerce in Korea is extremely advanced and is a big business for many years. So the trends in Asia definitely do vary country by country. I’m particularly excited about the first emerging linkages in Japan between real world retail and avatar social networks and games (being able to check in and see collections in game and in store), and think ultimately this will be a trend that extends through asia and other regions over coming years.
11. Do you have any lessons you can share that might help developers, gamers, and even non-technical entrepreneurs thinking about going into the fashtech space?
Approach it with an open mind- fashion is all about details, and style and brand perception. Very different from a technical world of code and functional diagrams – the trick is to learn how to apply one to another. Immerse yourself in that world and seek out the advice of friendly people who can help you learn the ropes. It’s a very rewarding journey!