Hello Kitty Online’s Facebook App Teaches New Users How to Play

Back in November we took a look at a freemium massively multiplayer title, Hello Kitty Online (HKO). Truth be told, the online game, with its virtual goods, community features, questing, and so on, proved to be quite the guilty pleasure. However, its beta status had led to significant complaints in the form of poor new user instruction. In short, the player had no idea how to actually play. To that end, Sanrio Digital took a rather curious approach to rectifying the problem: By teaching users via Facebook.

The app is Hello Kitty Online: The Introduction and it came to our attention as one of the Top 20 Emerging Facebook Games. Of course, the term “game,” here, is used a bit loosely as it is primarily a tutorial for the downloadable, full version.

As a tutorial, HKO certainly covers all its bases and shows a new player how to accomplish all the usability issues that came up as complaints in the initial review (interface, professions, combat, etc.).

The Introduction is presented in a very entertaining, voice-acted format, complete with quality visuals that actually present the user as being part of a Survivor-type game show. As they progress through each stage of learning, they become closer to “winning” the contest. However, while the cut scenes are most amusing (and perfect for the younger, target audience of this game), the actual teaching of play is mere listening and reading as an automated arrow points at each icon and asks for an occasional click.

For the record, it does look good, and helps a new user a lot compared to what existed before, but it is a little boring. Frankly, though, before everyone gets up in arms, this is coming from the point of view of an adult. Someone younger and enthralled by Hello Kitty will likely become too captivated with the visual spectacle to notice. That said, a little more interaction (some play rather than a periodic click) still might help retain all the information better.

But the general lack of game play doesn’t stop the app from getting users to share their activities in the app. After each chapter completion, players can broadcast their “victory” to their Facebook feed, effectively advertising the main game. Furthermore, when users finish all the chapters and win the game, their reward is “permission” to go to Sanrio Harbor (the entry point when you start HKO), giving Facebook users a direct link to the main game’s download page (though the link is always at the top of the screen anyway).

Notably, however, the tutorial does not completely lack gaming. It also comes with a simple, Bejeweled type of mini-game called Hello Kitty Blocks. Players match up three blocks of the same type to remove them and try to fill a progress bar – via removing said blocks – before time expires. It’s nothing complex or in depth, but it does have leaderboards, and adds yet another social graph-empowered link to the primary MMO.

With currently around 105,000 monthly active users, Hello Kitty Online: The Introduction is unlikely to be a huge app, but it will be curious to see how effective it is as both a teaching and advertising tool. Best of luck, and we’ll see you in Sanrio World.