Nestle Purina PetCare Company has launched a branded Facebook simulation game in which players become managers of their own virtual pet resorts, where they can care for and entertain virtual pets.
Purina Pet Resort (facebook.com/petresort) players start by creating a personalized pet character, choosing dog or cat, breed and sex. As other potential customer pets pop up to visit the resort, players attend to the animals' specified needs by interacting with them and purchasing (via PayPal, credit card or game card redemptions, including mobile payments) stations that enable feeding and adding amenities like scratching posts, playpens and grooming salons.
The virtual food and treats being purchased -- and repurchased as stock levels diminish -- are, of course, Purina brands such as Purina Dog Chow, Fancy Feast and Beggin' Strips. By adding new stations and keeping food and amenities replenished, players accumulate customer pets and move up levels. Along the way, they are rewarded with game coins and experience and popularity points.
Players can also invite friends to play and become their "neighbors," send and receive virtual gifts, and take photos of their resorts to share with friends.
"Pet lovers spend a lot of time online and using mobile devices for fun and to enhance the relationship with their pets," summed up Purina brand assistant brand manager Guy Fish. "Purina Pet Resort caters to pet lovers who enjoy online games and would like to create a virtual haven for their four-legged friends."
Purina has been having game bloggers try out the site, still labeled "beta," for several weeks now, and reviews generally deem Pet Resort fun, albeit not technically/functionally ground-breaking. And while the branded element isn't lost on gamers, they seem unfazed by it.
"As for the Purina involvement, the game is fun enough to possibly generate a good deal of marketing for them, and if it does, it will be interesting to see how many more major companies follow similar paths in the future," observed Inside Social Games blogger Christopher Mack, in a late-June posting. "One can imagine this game serving as a conduit for sales of Purina products, like earning a coupon for Dog Chow if you reach a high-enough level."
Purina also recently introduced an enhanced version of its "Petcentric" mobile app (petcentric.com), available to iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and BlackBerry users. The app offers a gallery of top daily pet news stories and videos, photos, and the ability to search for pet sitters and pet-friendly places using GPS and share ratings and comments about favorite places.
Purina Pet Resort was developed by computer game publisher Merscom, which in turn is owned by Mountain View, Calif.-headquartered social media game developer Playdom, Inc. In late July, The Walt Disney Co. announced that it is acquiring Playdom for $563.2 million to enhance its digital gaming portfolio.