THQ’s Margaritaville Online takes players on a tropical island adventure

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By Pete Davison Comments

Margaritaville Online is a new cross-platform game for Facebook and iPad. It was developed by Exploding Barrel Games and published by THQ.

According to our traffic tracking service AppData, Margaritaville Online currently has 30,000 monthly active users and 20,000 daily active users.

Margaritaville is described as an “everyday escape to a virtual tropical paradise.” The game is inspired by the song “Margaritaville” from singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett, and takes the form of a role-playing adventure game. Taking on the role of a custom avatar, players begin in a bookstore on a snowy night and find themselves sucked into the tropical paradise of Margaritaville after finding a dusty old book written by Jimmy Buffett. Once safely on the island, players are then given a series of quests to introduce them to the main gameplay elements — exploring and collecting items; completing tasks for the island’s residents; building up the player’s business, a bar known as The Oasis; and taking part in a variety of minigames.

Rather than taking the form of a 2D citybuilding game, Margaritaville Online takes place on a predefined map, rendered in 3D using the popular Unity game engine. The mobile version is also built in Unity, which a contributing factor in the near-simultaneous launch on Facebook and iPad. An iPhone companion app is soon to follow.

Players explore the game map by clicking or tapping, and can click on various items to interact with them. Progressing through the game’s quests rewards the player with additional tools, which allow them to interact with more diverse objects. Acquiring a hammer, for example, allows the player to break crates and barrels to retrieve the objects inside, while a machete allows for overgrown bamboo to be temporarily cleared, opening up new paths for exploration.

Many areas of the island are initially inaccessible, requiring the player to gather raw materials to rebuild bridges over rivers. As the player explores, they will find more items and characters to interact with, as well as a selection of minigames to play alongside the main exploration gameplay. These include a rhythm-based limbo game; a first-person shooter “pirate attack” game; a Bejeweled-style “match three” puzzler when resting in a hammock; and numerous appropriately-themed challenges. All actions cost Energy to perform, with playing a minigame costing three units at once.

A Facebook account is required to play, even on the iPad version, but this means that a player can start playing on their home computer then take their iPad with them to play on the go. In-game, players will see their friends’ characters wandering around their own Margaritaville island, and interacting with them grants a bonus of coins and items. Friends can also be hired into various positions in the player’s “Oasis” bar business, helping to increase income. There’s also the usual facility to send energy-restoring gifts to one another.

Monetization is largely handled through the sale of the game’s hard currency: Beach Bucks. These can be purchased on Facebook using Facebook Credits; earned using Facebook Offers; or purchased using in-app purchases on the iPad. Beach Bucks can be used for a variety of purposes — acquiring premium avatar customization items; purchasing energy restoration items; or gaining additional soft currency. THQ also offers a premium membership option for the game, known as becoming a “Parrothead,” which provides players with an increased energy limit, a cash bonus, special items and a variety of benefits promised in the future.

THQ’s plans for the future of the game are ambitious, with user acquisition strategies stretching far outside just Facebook and the App Store. Speaking with VentureBeat, THQ’s vice president of global brand management Michael Lustenberger said that the game would be promoted at Jimmy Buffett concerts; on the Las Vegas Strip; various restaurants and resorts; and also through the upcoming iPhone app, which encourages players to share real-world “Margaritaville Moments” in exchange for rewards in the game. A lot is riding on the success of the game for THQ, whose stock price has been plummeting recently thanks to disappointing sales of a number of its key titles in the console market.

You can follow Margaritaville Online’s progress using AppData, our traffic tracking application for social games and developers.