Talking character app trend inexplicably blowing up

Jan 24, 2011
Tech

Talking Harry the Hedgehog and Talking Santa — are still ranked 56 and 58, respectively, in the iPhone Top Paid Apps list. The company is doing so well, in fact, that it recently set up a headquarters in Palo Alto, California, moving from its founding location in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The company has 15 employees and plans to release another 18 apps in 2011.

It’s tough to say exactly what the draw is for these kinds of apps. I’ve polled friends about their favorite apps, and full-grown people with careers and responsibilities have pegged Talking Carl (which is 106 on the iTunes App Store paid apps list) as their favorites — so the draw of talking character apps might be squarely aimed at children, but they’re by no means limited to that market.

Although, when you start to think about it, talking characters and their success kind of make sense. Games do remarkably well on the mobile platform, so people are in the market for engaging tech toys to carry around with them. Talking characters, as a genre, are toys that play back. This is speculation on my part, but I can see a draw in mixing a little bit of childhood nostalgia in with the calendar apps and email checking that dominates a lot of smartphone use.

Regardless of the causes, Outfit7 seems to think there’s a big future in Talking Friends, which makes sense, seeing as they pulled down $200,000 in revenue on Christmas Day alone. The company seems to have hit on a big idea and is running to keep up with it; hence the 18 additional apps coming out this year.

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As for talking characters and their impact on the Android as a whole market — and whether they’ll eventually eclipse Angry Birds or burn out as a fad — it’s a little too early to tell. But like many other mobile apps, these seem to have found their market and their moment, and seeing more than just Outfit7’s goofy new virtual characters popping up on Android phones near you would hardly be surprising.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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