Aiming a video game at a niche market is always a risky strategy. Along with that risk can come big rewards though for both the player and the publisher. Gamers get an experienced aimed just at them and publishers engage an audience previously outside the fold.
New Style Boutique, the 3DS fashion game follow up to Style Boutique on the DS, offers fashionistas a chance to run their own store. This may sounds like a hundred other derivative mini-game focused offerings, but the depth and quality here were enough to turn my daughter's (9) head.
Although we all play games together on the weekend she hasn't really clicked with anything enough to play it avidly for some time. The boys have been enjoying Skylanders Giants as I've written previously and are half obsessed waiting for the Wave 3 figures to appear, but she has been less impressed with video games, until now.
New Style Boutique has her hooked, in a good way I think. She has been really enjoying the different role-play decisions to make here and recounts how she has been promoted or has unlocked new places to visit at the end of the day. As you can see in this Style Boutique video I got her to tell us why this is so much more compelling than other games for her.
This boils down to the game being aimed at a fashion gamer niche and then delivering enough enjoyment and quality to really engage those players. At first I had thought it would just be a set of mini-game challenges but the level of characterization and decision making here is drawn much more from the adventure role-play world of games like Skyrim.
Each new customer has to be judged, listened to and looked at carefully if the player is going to find the right outfit. Here the game excels with a simple interface, great writing, subtle visuals and a never ending array of outfits.
Watching her play one afternoon I happily passed 30 minutes seeing how she worked with the different people who came to her store - there was a real skill to this as she judged the right outfit far better than I could. It's been interesting to see her apply what she's learned in the game to her own outfits that have already taken a slightly Japanese (and happily classy) direction.
New Style Boutique was a real surprise to me and extends the 3DS's commitment to delivering a niche experience of serious quality. More like this please!
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