Interview: Ameba Pico’s US Invasion
Ameba Pico from CyberAgent America originally caught our attention due to its strange (but oddly cute) name. When we tried the game out, we discovered it was less of a game, and more of a true virtual world or social platform. Players can run around in various themed lobbies with other players, strike up a conversation, play a minigame, even organize parties in their own virtual home.
As with most virtual worlds, the experience is only as fun as the player makes it. We had a good time giving our avatar a big bushy mustache and running around various rooms shouting “Mustache! Mustache!” …but maybe that is just us.
We wanted to find out the story behind this cute virtual world, so we tracked down CyberAgent America President and CEO Toshi Namba to ask him a few questions about his growing virtual world.
Social Game Central: Can you tell us a little bit about Ameba Pico in general, for those readers that aren’t familiar with the game?
Toshi Namba: Ameba Pico is a newly launched virtual world. It is browser based and provided through Facebook and our own website.
Ameba Pico was originally made in Japan and now it attracts more than 3 million users and has become one of the dominant virtual world services in Japan.
SGC: The game was originally released in Japan, before coming over to the United States. What changes were made to the US version?
TN: We added more hair and skin colors. Also the main hub’s theme was changed from Tokyo to New York.
Facebook was another change. We added extra features that are popular on Facebook, such as gifts.
We understand there is a different demand in different cultures, and we listen to all fan feedback, so we are going to add more features that people want in the future.
SGC: Where does the name ‘Ameba Pico’ come from?
TN: Ameba is our blog platform brand name. In Japan the game is known as AmebaPigg.
When localizing we wanted to keep our brand name, but needed to change Pigg because it may remind some people of the animal pig!
For the name, we were looking for something that sounded cute and one team member came up with Pico, standing for really small in number, which also fit to this small but scalable world.
SGC: In addition to furniture and electronics, the Interior store also sells a large collection of block cubes in various shapes and sizes. Can you explain what these cubes are for, or what players can do with them?
TN: You can use them in your room. Players usually start using them by creating steps and second floors. Some addicted block cube fans create even higher levels, up to six floors. Others create character faces, etc, using the room as a canvas. I love visiting other people’s rooms and I’m always astonished how they are being creative.
SGC: Ameba Pico currently has a handful of minigames, including Rock/Paper/Scissors and Reversi. Are there plans to introduce any more minigames?
TN: Yes. Definitely.
SGC: Ameba Pico recently introduced pets. Can you tell us a little bit about this new feature? Are more pets on the way?
TN: More pets are planned in the future.
Once you get a pet, you can feed them, and interact with them by lifting them up, give them a scratch, etc. As you spend more time with your pet they will learn more actions.
Each pet has its own personality. It’s another way of expressing player’s personality. They sometimes become a bridge to talk with other people, same as in the actual world.
SGC: Ameba Pico frequently adds new content to keep players excited. Can you give us a sneak peak at any upcoming fashions or meeting rooms that are coming soon?
TN: We are always asking our fans what they want to see in Ameba Pico. I think they know the answer and what we need to do is give them back what they want with more than what they have expected.
SGC: Thanks for the opportunity Toshi.
TN: Thank you Justin.
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