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 through all the major wireless carriers Monday, lets mobile subscribers overcome the challenges involved in searching for their big break in Tinseltown 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,' " said Oliver Miao, GM at Vivendi studio Centerscore.

"Surviving Hollywood," the 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 to 34 -- players tackle challenges based around 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 continually refreshed through weekly downloadable episodes. Miao says the episodic-gaming approach is inspired by the 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 said.

"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 movie-making competition in which users are provided the tools to create their own five- to six-minute film.

It is Habbo's third global movie-making 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," said 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 tool set that's being provided to users who will create their own soundtrack and cast avatars in the leading roles.

When regional winners are selected in each of the 29 Habbo communities, those winners 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 already existing 7.5 million Habbo users worldwide 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.