Stardoll has been around since 2004 as a standalone website, but its Facebook-based incarnation — essentially a Facebook canvas-based front-end for the activities available on the main Stardoll site — has only been running since 2010. Between then and now, the popularity of accessing the game via Facebook has steadily grown in popularity, with the title regularly showing up in our top gainers lists for both MAU and DAU figures each week.
Rather than being a conventional “game” as such, Stardoll is a suite of fashion and beauty-themed activities particularly aimed at girls aged between 7 and 17, though is is also possible to play as a male avatar. Players are encouraged to participate in a variety of different activities through daily quests, which encourage them to check out the outfits of other users, dress their own avatar up, decorate their room and go shopping. Successfully completing one of these activities rewards the player with soft currency Starcoins, which may be used to purchase some items, and experience points. Leveling up through earning sufficient experience points unlocks additional content for the player to access.
Stardoll’s biggest strength is its enormous flexibility along with its potential for customization and self-expression. The player avatar is completely customizable, with everything from body shape to eye shape and color able to be changed. The player may also switch genders at will and there is nothing stopping them from cross-dressing if they please, though the male and female avatar poses do not match up, meaning certain items of clothing — particularly shoes — will not fit an avatar of the “wrong” gender.
The game offers a wide variety of appearance options for players to use, but the big draw for many will be the ability to create their own clothes, hairstyles, jewellery and interior decorations. In each of these modes, the player is able to combine various components together to create their own custom look, then save the designs into their virtual portfolio for later retrieval. There is a huge amount of freedom for players to explore design possibilities, though actually purchasing their designs to wear on their own avatar costs the player hard currency Stardollars. These may either be purchased using Facebook credits or earned via an offer wall.
As well as providing access to the “paper doll” fashion game, Stardoll’s Facebook app also provides access to a huge variety of minigames that are also available on the main site. These range from the opportunity to dress up various celebrities — often accompanied by a video from a fashion expert describing each star’s iconic looks — to simple Flash games that have nothing to do with the main Stardoll experience.
Stardoll is built to be social. Every page carries its own set of Facebook comments which any player is free to post on at any time. The comments system supports nested comments, too, encouraging people to engage in conversations rather than simply posting their thoughts. Users are able to jump directly to a user’s Facebook profile by simply clicking on their name in a comment, allowing new friendships to be struck up through the game. The ability to interact with one another directly appears to be particularly popular among non-English speakers, judging from the languages used in the comments.
Stardoll is an impressive use of Facebook to provide access to an established service in a context which is more familiar and relevant to many young players in 2012 than the open Web. The service itself is solid and offers plenty of things for its players to do — though it very much favors female players rather than males, nor there does not appear to be an easy facility to filter clothing by gender — and monetizes well, providing plenty of content for free players to engage with, while allowing paying players the opportunity to truly flex their creative muscles and show off their creations. While there’s not a lot of “point” to the whole experience, it is a fun diversion well-suited to fashion-conscious young people — and from a branding perspective, it represents a prime opportunity for established clothing labels and outlets to position themselves in front of a potentially-lucrative audience.
An interesting, unconventional use of the Facebook canvas to access a wide-ranging and fun service for fashion-conscious young players.