This case study follows the format established as part of my research into virtual pet design, which will culminate in the design of my own virtual pet.

A basic Boo as seen at the start of the game.

A basic Boo as seen at the start of the game.

My Boo is a virtual pet and mini game compilation game developed by Tapps Games and available on iOS, Android and Amazon devices. Players take care of a cheerful-looking blob creature called Boo, which can be customised with a wide range of colours and features earned with in-game currency generated by playing mini games.

Mini games are unlocked as Boo levels up through continuous interaction. The game is free to play and ad-supported, with options for players to pay to remove ads and win more in-game currency. There is an emphasis on player-to-player interaction, with players able to share their Boo’s design through both traditional social media and dedicated My Boo sharing platforms provided by Tapps Games.

Illusion of life.

There is a wealth of customisation options for Boo.

There is a wealth of customisation options for Boo.

My Boo differs from other modern virtual pet games, such as Daily Kitten, by being largely unconcerned with presenting a realistic or believable pet. Instead the appeal of the virtual pet in Boo comes from player customisation. Your Boo begins life as a cheerfully cartoonified blue blob; from there, players can personalise their pet with a myriad of cosmetic options, in order to make it their own.

Boo seems to inherit the Neopets idea of virtual pet design; while it does feature requisite Tamagotchi-inspired ‘need bars’, caring for the virtual pet is a background activity to customising and sharing Boo designs, and playing a variety of different mini games.

Interaction design.

While My Boo presents an almost identical package to Daily Kitten in terms of central features, what makes in interesting for this study is where key design decisions cause it to differ, and bring different elements of the game to the fore.

The game has a robust selection of mini games, with many of them clones of other successful games.

The game has a robust selection of mini games, with many of them clones of other successful games.

My Boo features a strong core loop; caring for your Boo and keeping it happy causes it to level up, which unlocks new mini games to play. Playing mini games rewards the player with coins, which can be spent on new cosmetic items for their Boo. Players are encouraged to share their pet’s visual style through integrated social media features, with friendly competition driving players to keep investing in the game.

It’s a more coherent package that the one offered by Daily Kitten. It’s clear that the game has been designed with mini games at its core. The user interface is bright, appealing and, crucially, simple to understand and use. Basic features like petting and feeding are carried out with simple gestures; there’s a nod to the physical interactions more emphasised in Daily Kitten, but it’s clear after completing the opening tutorial that there is a clear progression path, and that mini games are central to this.

Boo‘s mini games are much more accomplished than those in Daily Kitten; while many of Kitten’s activities felt like a chore required to acquire currency, a good portion of Boo’s games are fun to play in their own right. This is achieved by using another strategy also leveraged by Neopets, which is to clone existing successful games and re-skin them to fit the theme. Players can expect Boo-flavoured takes on Bubble Bobble, Breakout, bowling and Whack a’ Mole.

While there’s certainly nothing here that player’s are unlikely to have played many times before in different wrappers, the games are well presented and brief enough that they don’t tire when played in short bursts, and they fit well into the overall gameplay loop of Boo.

Regular rewards of in-game currency encourage players to keep engaging with the game's systems.

Regular rewards of in-game currency encourage players to keep engaging with the game’s systems.

Also much like Neopets, My Boo uses ads to generate revenue. Every few games, a pop-up with a ‘sponsored game’ will appear. It’s an intrusive way to advertise to players, especially as many of the sponsored games break with the cheerful and colourful aesthetic of the rest of the mini games, but all advertising content can be skipped with a simple tap should the user wish. Should they choose, players can spend small amounts of real-world money to remove these ads, whilst receiving a boost to their in-game currency acquisition too.

It’s a flexible monetisation system, that lets players get the most out of the game for free with relatively minimal distractions, whilst letting those who are willing to pay remove these distractions entirely and gain a slightly enhanced experience.

Social factors.

Social features are built into the game, with players encouraged to share their Boo designs.

Social features are built into the game, with players encouraged to share their Boo designs.

Social interaction is presented as a key element of the Boo package. The design of Boo itself is intentionally basic, meaning it can be customised in a great number of ways. Boos can be customised to resemble different animals, or given outfits to look like pop-stars or superheroes. Players are encouraged to share their customised Boo through social media; Tapps Games encourage this by featuring the most popular designs on their own website, a weekly hall-of-fame accessible directly through the game.

It’s a strategy that seems to have paid off, with the game reaching over 700,000 downloads on the Google Play Store alone. The majority of review are positive, with players citing entertaining mini games, the cute design and sharing features as particular high points. Users also admit to owning and playing with multiple high-level Boos, which speaks of a high level of user engagement over time. Clearly the polished gameplay loop and the appealing, customisable character design is providing an experience that is keeping players engaged with the game.

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