digital reporter

Want to be a player? Mobile has your game

From "Sunset Blvd." to "The Player" to "Entourage," Hollywood has long entranced the movie and TV producers who toil here. But now two new digital offerings are proof that Tinseltown is influencing new-media types as well.

Vivendi Games Mobile's "Surviving Hollywood," which launches Monday through all the major wireless carriers, lets mobile subscribers overcome the challenges involved in searching for their big break from the palm of a hand.

Similarly, a new contest launched within the virtual world/online teen game environment Habbo ultimately has one winning story creator landing a voyage for two to the place where power lunches rule.

"We looked at the obsession with Hollywood and took a lot of inspiration from stories and shows out there like 'Entourage,' " says Oliver Miao, GM at Vivendi studio Centerscore.

"Surviving Hollywood," a story-based simulation game, follows the company's popular "Surviving High School" game, which has been one of the top-selling mobile plays on the market.

Geared toward the rising population of casual gamers — females ages 16-34 — players tackle challenges based on typical showbiz scenarios and story lines that aspiring actors and artists face when they're trying to break into the biz.

Players might begin as a waiter or assistant and work their way up the road to stardom by attending auditions, juggling jobs and networking at the right Hollywood hotspots. The ultimate goal? To walk the red carpet and be an A-list star, of course.

Scoring is determined by the choices made by players, with story lines refreshed through weekly downloadable episodes. Miao says the episodic-gaming approach is inspired by television and its weekly episodes.

"It's designed to be played in snippets so people can save the game and go back to it, kind of like a book," Miao says.

"Surviving" also incorporates a contest in which players who submit the best story pitch for an episode will have a segment based on their idea incorporated into the game as well as the chance to transcend their 2-inch-screen version of Hollywood with a real trip to Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, Habbowood, a sector of the Habbo world that allows its users to shoot movies inside its virtual world, is launching the Digital Movie Awards in early September. It's a moviemaking competition in which users are provided the tools to create a five- to six-minute film.

It is Habbo's third global moviemaking campaign, designed to generate more buzz around the online property and garner for its creators their own virtual world version of fame. Habbo expects more than 1 million entries.

"Hollywood has eclipsed all geographical boundaries," says Jeannine Lewis, director of North America advertising sales at Habbo. "It exists as the metaphor for entertainment, and that's why we created Habbowood."

Paul Thind, GM at Habbo North America, attributes the larger scale of this latest contest to better technology and the toolset that's being provided to users who will create their own soundtrack and cast avatars.

After regional winners are selected in each of the 29 Habbo communities, they will take part in the global finale in which a panel of celebrity judges will select the best movie and bestow the grand prize.

While Thind hopes this latest contest generates new users, brings more value to advertisers and satisfies the 7.5 million Habbo users hankering to engage online, Miao hopes Vivendi's game will lead to future spinoffs — a concept near and dear to Hollywood's heart.

"We're hoping this will be a yearly franchise with new story lines with the same characters and side characters just like TV," he said.
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