Hear me Rawr: Inside the chat app that wants to humanise our text messages
The big money question
Calling upon skills he learnt working on brand partnerships at Remedy, Häkkinen and his team have managed to bring some big names to Rawr. Currently you’ll find US footwear brand Otz Shoes, Finnish clothing store Makia and Chelsea Football Club populating Rawr’s various item stores. Red Bull is also bringing a store to the app.
“I had a fair amount of experience [in brand partnerships] from having worked on Alan Wake at Remedy. I formed partnerships with Energiser and Ford as part of a plan to make it feel realistic,” he explains. “[Back then] brand deals were tough and we only secured four. Now, though, we have nine brands on board with Rawr.”
While three of these have already launched, it also seems that something big is on the horizon for Rawr users – although Häkkinen is rather coy about it. “We have one, large American celebrity, an artist. We also have some HBO series coming in…” No matter how much I push, he won’t name the series or celebrities in question. However, the deal involves both animations and avatar clothes, allowing your avatar to wear the clothes that characters in the series wear.
Drawing on the models of many popular free-to-play apps out there right now, Rawr will make some of its money through in-app purchases. Don’t worry, you won’t be charged to message people. Instead, you’ll be buying in-game currency to customise your avatar and purchase licensed items of clothing. As with all free-to-play titles, Futurefly also provides ways for you to earn currency through playing games or inviting friends to join.
Of course, Rawr will suffer the same problem that every new community-driven app faces: getting users. Futurefly has a solution for the friendless masses: Globetrotter chat.
You can think of Globetrotter as a Chatroulette for Rawr users – albeit with avatars instead of grimy webcam feeds – connecting you with random Rawrers (I’m going with it) around the world. “Globetrotter is basically modern-day pen pals. These people are global and random, and we’re not sharing any personal information beyond your avatar.” For security purposes, Futurefly has disabled the use of picture-sharing in this mode too. “There’s no photo sharing here because, well, otherwise people share photos of… people doing stuff that people don’t want to see.”
Three million conversations and counting
Over Rawr’s first weekend, the team saw more than a million Globetrotter chats take place, with the average user session length rocketing into 212 seconds per session. For context, Häkkinen claims that’s more than three times longer than people use WhatsApp, more than twice as long as people spend on Snapchat, and just shy of twice as long as people sit on Facebook on their phone. Not bad.
So what about the future? Futurefly plans to capitalise upon both the addition of mini-games and clever, helpful bots. As games are in the very blood of every Futurefly team member, it’s a no-brainer that games will eventually come to the service. However, sensibly, Häkkinen decided it was best to get Rawr out of the door before they stuffed it with games detracting from the app’s core proposition.
Bots, however, are there to bring in an extra layer of usefulness to the app. Currently they just have Tim Rawr, a bot designed as a way to offer feedback to the dev team and ask questions about how to use Rawr. Further down the line, Häkkinen has plans to bring in a whole variety of other bots for people to communicate with. “One idea we had was a cooking bot where you say ‘I have bacon, what can I make?’. It’ll send you a recipe and you can say ‘nah, I don’t want that’ and it’ll send you a different one. It’s random, but it could spark some inspiration and it saves you time trawling the internet for something you can make.”
“We’re hoping that this is what people thought Miitomo should have been,” Häkkinen says as we talk about the worries around Nintendo’s avatar-based app. “Obviously my view is distorted, but the people I chat with have a ton of fun, and it really feels like there’s a lot more to [Rawr] than just a regular messenger.” Having used Rawr myself for a little while, it’s clear to see that – while, yes, there are a lot of messaging apps out there – Rawr really does have something going for it.
“In the first week, over three million conversations were started,” Häkkinen states. “Those early metrics are telling us that we do have a heartbeat.”