Back in May 2009, I wrote an entry that covered the announcement of Jolt Online’s Playboy MMO and how no-one cared about it. Following that article, I’d kept half an eye on the (now offline) official site because I was interested in seeing what actually happened with the title.
And I waited. And waited. And waited.
And forgot the title even existed. Which is a shame, because it appears to have launched and closed before I was even aware of it. Given that I signed up (with a chance to win a lifetime subscription to Playboy) Jolt Online had my email address, but never bothered to let me know.
But between the launch announcement and the actual launch, things changed. For one, it was no longer a “browser-based MMO” but a “Facebook app”. And instead of a talent manager trying to get a woman up the ranks of Playmate-hood, you were instead a socialite trying to throw an awesome Playboy party.
Yes, that sounds stupid. However, it isn’t any more stupid than raising a virtual farm, so I’ll give that a pass. Two discussions I found of the game talk about some of the mechanics – throwing the wrong kind of guest out of the party, stocking drinks, inviting celebrities to get more people to come – so look there if you are curious about what playing the game entailed.
Spiking the Punch
PP launched about November 30 2010 and was closed by September 12 2011. It’s lifespan wouldn’t have been helped by a system redesign that reset the game for all players released on March 31, 2011, nor by the ugly graphics, or the pop culture references that were tired before they even appeared in game (a Dean Martin reference? REALLY?).
It may seem also an odd complaint to think that Playboy Party might have been a bit sexist, but looking at the celebrity options I do wonder. After all, the male celebrities you could possibly invite look normal, even appealing, while the women look (in a game based on a property to which ‘how women look’ is pretty crucial)… well, see for yourself:
But let’s look at the other issues the game had, and the critical ones at that:
- It’s a Facebook game that loves nothing more than telling all your friends that you are playing Playboy Party. ‘Playboy’ has got a bit of an association to it, and that’s mainly to do with looking at naked women. Do you like to tweet to your friends, family, partner, employers etc every time you look at posed erotica? If you answered ‘Yes’, then Playboy Party may have been for you. For everyone else, it was a turn off.
- Tying into the issue of Playboy being famous for its pictures of naked women, a problem arises when you try to trade on that (e.g. by saying that the dev team “almost went blind” during development of the game, that “Jolt is not responsible for any loss of sex life that may occur if you post Playboy Party stories to your newsfeed which your girlfriend then reads”) but actually can’t show any pictures of naked women. Facebook platform policies specifically ban “nudity” (under III. Application Content, B. Prohibited Content, Clause 5) while Jolt’s own Playboy Party FAQ says:
“Q: Where are the REAL Playboy women?
A: Erm, this kind of thing isn’t allowed on Facebook and we didn’t set out to make this kind of game. Playboy isn’t just about … that, it’s about a fun filled lifestyle, good times and parties (hence the game title).”
You would be rewarded by access to Playboy covers, lingerie and bikini shots, but no actual nudity. A Playboy game without naked women? Pretty much like throwing a party with no booze.
All of which led to an underwhelming amount of success for PP. Despite the recognition of the Playboy name, only 400 active monthly users were there at the end.
IP and branding can work just as much against a game as for it, especially if the title can’t deliver on the core attraction of the IP.
Playboy Manager (which was turned into Playboy Party) wasn’t the only online / MMO title that Playboy got involved with. They’d also invested in Bigpoint’s expensive browser-based game Poisonville, which was basically GTA Online (and boy, isn’t that just a category of pretenders with a happy history?). You can see the launch trailer here, and it doesn’t look too bad.
Playboy’s not very good at this whole video gaming thing.