Home-grown software designers have been keeping up with the trend for mobile applications which cater to specific age groups or are aimed at people who share a common interest.
Sweet Summer is an essentially two-person local operation which dreams up cute, cartoon-type animal characters (like Kuro, Hoshio & Kamomo, Space Traveller and the Long-Necked Gang), and manufactures merchandise and stationary (chiefly bags and notebooks) bearing these images. Sweet Summer co-founders Rathakorn Prompimpa and Alissara Chavalvechakul have been selling their products in department stores, bookshops as well as online for almost two years now.
After building up a devoted following, the pair decided to diversify and have got into devising games for mobile phones featuring the same stable of cuddly characters. Their first venture into the world of digital content is a game called Kuro Jump which was developed in collaboration with a mobile game company called Blue Boat.
Kuro Jump is a fun and addictive "arcade" game in which players endeavour to help a little whale called Kuro jump into bubbles to release fish, all the while keeping a sharp lookout for nasty black octopuses. This challenging game, which has four play modes of steadily increasing difficulty (Classic, Time, Rush and Hard), was introduced last year. Available in four languages (Thai, English, Chinese and Japanese) and on both iOS and Android platforms, Kuro Jump has been downloaded by more than 200,000 users to date.
Rathakorn, the design director at Sweet Summer, noted that Kuro Jump has received a warm welcome from local mobile phone users and that its primary appeal is to girls and teenagers in general. Next month, the company plans to launch a second game called Sweet Summer World Challenge. A bit more challenging than Kuro Jump, this had been described as a more social game that users can play in competition with friends on Facebook. A beta version of it has been distributed to a select group of testers whose job is to report any bugs they encounter or any changes they'd like to see before the final release.
While all the Sweet Summer characters were designed by Rathakorn, his business partner Alissara, who's in charge of marketing, contributes a lot to the overall concept.
"Sometimes she tells me some story she's dreamed up," Rathakorn said, "and then I invent characters to play the different roles in that tale."
Another creative local enterprise is 23 Studio which develops interactive e-books for children aged between two and 12. The company sells its interactive titles via both the iOS App Store and Google Play, but the enabling app for smartphones and tablets can be downloaded for free.
An interactive book requires the reader's active participation and this concept has been found to be particularly useful for developing the skills of kids who are slow learners. Participation can range from e-books with "texture" to those with special devices used to teach children how to use certain tools. These e-books often incorporate modern technology, employing many of the same techniques as three-dimensional greeting cards.
Interactive Studio 23 tales like Little Red Riding Hood and The Little Whale are suitable for four year olds.
They both have Thai soundtracks and functions which allow the viewer to interact with the moving images via a touch screen. The characters can be moved around or made to emit sounds and the narrator's voice can be turned off to allow the viewer to record his/her own voice-over for the story.
Users can share on social networks by taking pictures using the front camera on an iPad and frame the picture using characters from the story as graphics.
23 Studio specialises in child-focused applications which are marketed under "Tuck Me In Bedtime Stories" product line.
Awattha Susirisupakul, its marketing executive, noted that the platform is also open to parents who want to create the stories for their children.
"Our apps for iOS and Android combine age-appropriate stories with beautiful illustrations, rich animation, music, sound effects and narration to enhance the story and get children excited about reading with the Book+Game concept," Awattha noted.
Some local software developers have chosen to respond to the demands of sport enthusiasts. Golfdigg, for example, is an app for smartphones that helps golfers reserve a round of golf on their favourite links. Developed by Bangkok App and marketed with the slogan "Book today, play tomorrow", this is a platform that allows one to book a round of golf on a course, between 8am and midnight, and then turn up to play on that golf course the following day, while enjoying discounts of up to 80% on green fees and other costs.
Available on both iOS and Android, Golfdigg won a Thailand ICT Award this year. The app offers a choice of four- and five-star golf courses in Thailand and Bangkok App boasts that it is the only existing facility where golfers can book and pay for a round of golf via their smartphone and then receive a confirmation of their booking within a short space of time. Users can do convenient online payments via their Visa/MasterCard or JCB credit cards.