Flirt Planet and the gamification of dating apps
Can virtual flirting lead to romance in real life?
That’s the premise behind TrulySocial’s innovative new dating apps, Flirt Planet Meet and Flirt Planet Play, as users looking for love can now use their iPhone or iPad to practice their smooth moves on computer-controlled characters before actually interacting with other humans through the app.
Will it work?
Inside Mobile Apps sat down with Sebastian Coman, TrulySocial’s founder and creative director, to find out how it all goes down.
Inside Mobile Apps: So how does playing a dating video game help lead users to real-world matches in Flirt Planet?
Sebastian Coman: Flirt Planet is a dating ecosystem made up of Flirt Planet Play, which is not only a video game, it’s a new video game genre. We’ve taken social, flirting and dating interactions, and we’ve created a game for that. You build your avatar, you enter a 3-D world, you assume the role of an alien from outer space, and you need to blend into human society, taking baby steps as you learn how to socialize.
IMA: What do the interactions consist of?
SC: You interact with the artificial intelligence through dialogue, facial expressions, and body language. You start your interaction and you’ll see a prompt from a character in the game, then you have various choices to respond. Depending on how you respond, the conversation may end abruptly or you start a new conversation topic or you can get a phone number or a date with the character. Eventually, the goal is to build a relationship with the artificial intelligence characters in the game, going on dates and building a book of different characters you can date.
IMA: So how does this actually help you meet people in real life?
SC: Flirt Planet Play is our practice ground. You know how people get anxious while starting a conversation with a stranger? This is a safe area where you can practice these skills without the fear of rejection. Really, it’s a way for players to learn some skills before taking these skills back out into the real world. We’re not really focused on it being a full-on learning experience – it’s still a game, first and foremost – but we have a nice narrative, a nice storyline, and over 90,000 lines of dialogue so you’ll never see the same conversation twice. Actually, if you did a ranking of the games with the most dialogue, at the very top you’d have games like Grand Theft Auto, and we’d rank around fifth or sixth.
But then the second part to Flirt Planet’s dating ecosystem is Flirt Planet Meet. In Flirt Planet Meet, you’re interacting with real people in an online dating app. We’ve brought our video game design to the app, gamifying the app. It’s a free-to-play dating app where all the core dating features are free. Your daily usage is free, and you can communicate as often as you like with anyone, and you can approach anyone you like, but there are certain premium features that we monetize. We give you energy, which we call Flirt Juice inside the app.
SC: I started analyzing the online dating industry three years ago when I was at Berkley at Haas doing my MBA. When we got together as a team, we started seeing all of the problems online dating apps have, so with Flirt Planet Meet, we’ve designed the experience to be as user-friendly as possible. What happens on other dating sites is, if you’re an attractive female, you get bombarded by unsolicited e-mail. You might have 200 messages in your inbox, but they’re not necessarily the proper suitors. We want to cut that spam out of your inbox, so with Flirt Planet Meet, you send connection requests, and each connection request costs Flirt Juice, or energy. So it’s kind of like a Facebook friend request, and only when the connection is established can you chat freely. You’ll see all of your connection requests on a daily basis, and higher-quality users are more expensive to connect to. When the connection request is accepted, you can then chat as often as you like, similar to an instant messenger app. From there, you can take the relationship offline and meet in person.
IMA: Can I just buy more Flirt Juice if I see someone else I want to connect with, or do I have to wait another day for the meter to fill back up?
SC: You get a daily Flirt Juice allowance, and that’s currently set at 100, so you can make a few connections per day depending on the quality of the users you’re trying to connect to. Everyday, that energy is refreshed, but if you want to make more connections in a given day, you can just buy more Flirt Juice and send a request right away.
IMA: Is the app regionalized at all, that way I don’t waste all my time talking to someone from Idaho while I’m in San Francisco?
SC: That’s completely up to you. You can filter your search to just look for people in San Francisco or just look for people in Idaho, that’s completely up to you. You can also search worldwide, that way, if I know that in a couple of months, I’m moving from London to San Francisco, I can start searching San Francisco. It’s not like the app is looking at your location and only allowing you to talk to people around you, you can set it anyway you like.
SC: We’re just so different than any of the other apps that are out there. Dating apps that are out there now, they’re acting as mere brokers for meeting people, whereas we’re a dating ecosystem that stages the dating experience. There is a lack from the other companies, where they do not teach you flirting skills, and this is something that we’re here to fill. We offer available and affordable training on the go and anywhere and at anytime.
IMA: You said earlier “high–quality users” cost more to access. Is that based on a person’s appearance?
SC: The quality is determined by three things. We rate a person’s profile portfolio, either a one star, a two star, or a three star. One star would be for a photo of your cat or your car or something like that. Two star would be a photo of you and your mates. Three-star would be a nice headshot. The other two more important elements are user based. People can rate your profile, taking into account your photos and the way you’ve written your mini-essays. Then the third element is the review. It’s just like a Yelp, where you can rate the user up to 5 stars, then you can write a review once you’ve had an interaction with that user. Say you talk to someone for a week and you’ve exchanged lots of messages, you’ll be able write a review of that user.
IMA: What’s the difference between the “Matching Sauce” in your app and the personality quizzes on other dating apps?
SC: Currently, what is out there is all about explicit personality tests. You get asked a whole lot of questions in a long questionnaire, like: How generous are you on a scale of 1-5, 5 being Father Christmas and 1 being an outright Scrooge. No one being asked that question would own up to being a Scrooge. So we’re taking those explicit questions out and replacing it with implicit analysis. In the backend, what we have for our Matching Sauce is a groundbreaking personality test designed by neuroscientists here in the U.K. It’s a mini-game whereby there is stimulus on the screen, and it measures the brain’s response time to that stimuli, thus determining your personality with high accuracy, and nobody can lie. It’s an unbiased test that taps into your subconscious. That test only takes a few minutes to do, and we use that to determine our Matching Sauce. This is a customizable matching algorithm, so say you’re really into the science and you believe matching personality types should be matched with one another, then you can assign 100-percent weighting on the personality test of the Matching Sauce. However, if you believe in Astrology, then we’re using an Astrology matching algorithm from Moonit, a dating app out of New York who are our strategic partners, so you can then put in a 50-percent weighting for Astrology, for example. We’re putting the user in control, instead of being matched by explicit, irrelevant questions that take ages to complete. We’re doing it quickly and accurately, while letting our users decide how he or she want to get matched.