The Internet has made the world a much smaller place over the past few years, with all of us able to communicate with each other across vast distances. But, it’s important to remember the cultural differences that make each nation individual and unique. Which is exactly what Webkare, a Japanese social network where girls can hook up with virtual Animé characters, does.
Webkare, which according to Techcrunch stands for ‘Web boyfriend’ in Japanese, is a cross between a social networking site and dating simulation. The site opened on September 10th, and since then has attracted 10,000 members and counting. Furthermore, the site has seen phenomenal traffic since its début, racking up 3.5 million page views.
Dating simulations are something which have never really taken off in the west – we’re too busy going out, getting drunk, and hooking up in real life to bother with anything virtual. But, in Japan and Asia, they’re huge, with some of the top selling video games seeing players interact with virtual partners in waiting.
Webkare is the first time that the genre has been taken to the Web, and by being coupled with social networking features, it seems to be ultra successful. Which is quite amazing for a site which offers nothing over any other social network, such as Facebook and MySpace, apart from the chance to date cartoon boyfriends.
The site works by allowing its members to interact with one of four male Anime characters in an effort to garner a relationship with them and eventually end the game by winning his heart. A virtual high school is used as the setting, and the real-life members of the site have to co-operate with each other in order to progress further in the dating game.
The social networking elements are nothing new, and hardly exceptional. There is a messaging system, a micro-blogging platform and various ways to interact with other members, but it’s not anything that isn’t already offered elsewhere on the Web.
The site is free to use, being supported by advertising and affiliate links. While the site is likely to remain charge-free, LinkThink, the company behind Webkare could make extra revenue by diversifying the brand in to video games, graphic novels, or merchandise.
While MySpace and Facebook have both travelled successfully to that part of the world, I really can’t see Webkare making the journey across to Europe or America. If western women are felling lonely and unloved, they’re much more likely to turn to binge eating or consuming vast quantities of alcohol than to their virtual boyfriend on the Web.