Zimmi has bulging, expressive eyes, a cutesy little giggle, and he farts in nine different ways. If you tickle Zimmi’s nose, he’ll sneeze; if you feed him a chili pepper, he’ll turn red in the face; and if you flip him up and down a few times, he’ll throw up all over the screen. It’s up to you to wipe off the vomit with your finger.
Zimmi, a kids’ app-toy that lives on an iPhone and in a plush, is the creation of Sydney’s Bigfoot Toys, a small company that has been in the toy-inventing business for 13 years. Zimmi represents Bigfoot’s first foray into apps. It’s also the first time the company has attempted to bring its own product to market, having traditionally designed and licensed its toys to other parties.
Bigfoot has invested more than $500,000 on the Zimmiz line, getting TV-quality animation done for the app in Thailand, a process that has taken a year and a half. The lively software contains more than 330 animations, amounting to more than 30 minutes running time of different reactions, expressions, and digital emissions. You can even play games with Zimmi, such as “Hide & Seek” and “Hide & Holler,” in which you use your voice to summons the character out from his hiding place.
The business model for the toy, which is targeted at 3-6-year-olds, is pretty simple. When you download the free app, you can customize your Zimmi so he or she looks and sounds just like you want. But then the character is set in place. If you want to customize the character later – change his skin color, perhaps, or give him a grill – then you have to pay up for the premium version, which is 99 cents. That gets you an infinite number of character changes. If you’re serious about your Zimmi, you can spend $25 on the plush toy, which has an open slot so you can slide your phone and the app serves as the face. That’s why Bigfoot calls these things “phone faces” (or, to be more trademark specific, “fonefaces”).
So far the Zimmi is available online, and in some Australian stores, most prominently the Harvey Norman chain. It has been on sale since October, and the app has registered 2,000 downloads.
Bigfoot CEO Spiro Dimitriou says the company is about to embark on a TV ad campaign to ginny up sales, but the overall international indicators for app toys are not that great. Despite a number of players in the global market, including Applingz, Moshi Monsters, and Woogie, app toy sales have been disappointing. “We’re all scratching our heads a bit,” Dimitriou concedes, although he thinks it’s just a matter of time before consumers embrace app toys. After all, they’re still pretty new.
Perhaps one of the factors holding app-toys from taking off is that there are not many 4-year-olds that are rocking iPhones. Dimitriou expresses hope, however, that parents’ hand-me-down phones will help get the market going.
Check out Dimitriou exhibiting one of his colorful friend’s messy eating habits.