October 18, 2006

Dutch Chatbot Baby Grows Up In Six Days, Demands Much Virtual H&M Clothing

eccky_with_phone.jpgEccky is a giant marketing platform disguised as a social networking game, where Dutch folk sign up, pair up [if you didn't bring a partner, one will be "Love Matched" to you], and birth a virtual baby. The baby, called an Eccky [more on the name in a minute], resides as a chatbot in your MSN Messenger buddy list, and as an avatar on your Java-enabled phone. You feed and care for it during its six-day childhood using SMS and chat messages.

The "WTF is Eccky?" blog entry is very upfront about the site/game/network's purposes beyond "social networking", including something I know I'm always feeling a shortage of in my life: "a lot of interesting ways to integrate real world brands and products in relevant ways."

Ecckies will be chatting about how they're covered from birth with insurance from OHRA, a Dutch financial services firm. And they'll bug you for clothes from the Eccky-sized, in-game H&M boutique. You can meet other Eccky parents via their profiles, but it doesn't sound like there's a big virtual gamespace like Warcraft or The Sims.

But even if it's not Second Life, for NeoPet aficionados out there, raising a child through SMS will at least be second nature.

But about that name: Eccky is derived from the Japanese word "ecci," [actually pronounced "etchy"] which CNet translates as "naughty." Close, but not quite.

If you know that "hitori" means "one," you can slip away to the bathroom for a few minutes to translate "hitori ecci" for yourself. "Ecci suru," meanwhile, is what you do that makes a baby, and it translates politely as "to do the nasty." In either case, it's a nearly perfect name for a service that serves you up to advertisers in exchange for some rudimentary social simulation. It reminds me of a saying attributed to Mike Bloomberg from his cutthroat trader days: "Make the customer think he's getting laid when he's getting f***ed."

The game's all in Dutch, but Eccky Blog is in English. [eccky.com via nabee (aka startupdad) who doesn't like it much, either: "The idea of a messenger bot going from "gaga" to "I hate you dad" does not count as satisfying gameplay."]

2 Comments

The meaning of the Eccky name is really a coincidence, but thanks for the explanation;-)

There is an extensive virtual gamespace available as well by the way. Most of the gameplay takes place there and through IM/MSN, not through SMS or the mobile phone.

Will be available in English soon...!

[yay, english. I figured since you had linked to that story about the Japanese origin of the name, and since you were meticulous about factchecking minutiae in other articles and didn't dispute the ecci thing, that it was a fact that the reporter must have gotten from Ecky. It's all part of multi-lingual branding, I guess. Or like a westerner finding out his kanji tattoo doesn't mean what he thinks it does. -ed.]

when it gets translated into english email me please.

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