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Free Realms has been a successful game for Sony Online Entertainment. With the wide appeal of the game, it reached 1 million registered players weeks after it launched, and has recently hit over 9 million almost a month before it's 1 year anniversary. Touting such numbers, you would think Sony would be happy with it, but rather it's only the beginning. We recently sat down with Penn Stable, Sony's Cheif Director of Audience Growth, for a Free Realms Insider exclusive talk on their groundbreaking announcement.
 
"Free Realms has been a huge success for us." says Stable, "We are almost at 10 million registered players and we haven't even celebrated our 1st anniversary! The game just has a huge appeal to all ages, young to old, male and female. We have a big audience for Free Realms, but we still think we can do a little better."
 
"That's why we here at Sony are launching a new initiative to even broaden our appeal. An idea never before done in the gaming industry: Target animals." exclaims Stable, "What we realized is that, while we made Free Realms broad enough to target everyone in the household, there's a whole other audience that's never been tapped, and they're also living in these houses. That's why we're making Free Realms 100% animal friendly."
 
 
 
"Players thought all the influx of new pets coming in game was just in response to all the player feedback," laughs Stable, "but we're actually just getting ready for this big update!"
 
We asked about how exactly the animal accessible update will work, but Penn was slim on the details. "We cannot talk about how the gameplay will play out at the moment," he says, " but what I can tell you is that you don't have to buy any new peripheral to plug into your computer: This animal-friendly update will let pets of all kind play Free Realms with your existing mouse and keyboard, and even your webcam!" When questioned on the PS3 version being animal-accessible, Penn mentioned "We also cannot speak about the PS3 version right now, but it's something we're actively looking into."
 
 
 
Stable also mentions how exactly they're making the game animal-friendly. "For Free Realms, our target audience was children, so we held several focus group play-test sessions with kids with our in-house Usability Lab to find out what works and what doesn't to make the game more accessible." Penn says. "We even record player's facial reactions to really know what's going on and if they're enjoying the game with these focus groups. And we're doing the same exact thing with the animal-update. We've been holding several secret animal play test sessions down here at the San Diego Zoo to ensure the game can be easily picked up by any animal." Penn chuckles, "The sessions with the monkeys and elephants were a blast. We could tell they were having a good time with the game."
 
"Our philosophy here is that Free Realms was meant to be played together." Penn said. "It's not just a game for kids, but also a game for the parents to play too. And that's just what's happening in-game with children and their parents, even grandparents! But we did not want to neglect all the animals in the family. A family that plays together stays together, even the furry, feathered, or scaled members of the family." Stable continues, "We firmly believe this is the next big step in the gaming industry. The industry has already expanded the audience base with casual games, but we feel that animal games will be the next wave of further growing the gaming audience."
 
 
 
There are plans on pets member subscriptions, but Penn also couldn't say the details on them at the moment. "We're looking into an affordable pricing model for pet membership." said Stable.
 
"We are anticipating to launch the animal-accessible update to Free Realms by the end of the year" says Stable.
The animal update is currently in alpha testing, but sign ups for beta testing is said to go up "real soon."
 
Free Realms Insider would like to thank Mr. Stable for letting us interview him, and we look forward to getting our paws on this new update.
 
 
 
Free Realms has been a successful game for Sony Online Entertainment. With the wide appeal of the game, it reached 1 million registered players weeks after it launched, and has recently hit over 9 million almost a month before it's 1 year anniversary. Touting such numbers, you would think Sony would be happy with it, but rather it's only the beginning. We recently sat down with Penn Stable, Sony's Cheif Director of Audience Growth, for a Free Realms Insider exclusive talk on their groundbreaking announcement.
 
"Free Realms has been a huge success for us." says Stable, "We are almost at 10 million registered players and we haven't even celebrated our 1st anniversary! The game just has a huge appeal to all ages, young to old, male and female. We have a big audience for Free Realms, but we still think we can do a little better."
 
"That's why we here at Sony are launching a new initiative to even broaden our appeal. An idea never before done in the gaming industry: Target animals." exclaims Stable, "What we realized is that, while we made Free Realms broad enough to target everyone in the household, there's a whole other audience that's never been tapped, and they're also living in these houses. That's why we're making Free Realms 100% animal friendly."
 
 
 
"Players thought all the influx of new pets coming in game was just in response to all the player feedback," laughs Stable, "but we're actually just getting ready for this big update!"
 
We asked about how exactly the animal accessible update will work, but Penn was slim on the details. "We cannot talk about how the gameplay will play out at the moment," he says, " but what I can tell you is that you don't have to buy any new peripheral to plug into your computer: This animal-friendly update will let pets of all kind play Free Realms with your existing mouse and keyboard, and even your webcam!" When questioned on the PS3 version being animal-accessible, Penn mentioned "We also cannot speak about the PS3 version right now, but it's something we're actively looking into."
 
 
 
Stable also mentions how exactly they're making the game animal-friendly. "For Free Realms, our target audience was children, so we held several focus group play-test sessions with kids with our in-house Usability Lab to find out what works and what doesn't to make the game more accessible." Penn says. "We even record player's facial reactions to really know what's going on and if they're enjoying the game with these focus groups. And we're doing the same exact thing with the animal-update. We've been holding several secret animal play test sessions down here at the San Diego Zoo to ensure the game can be easily picked up by any animal." Penn chuckles, "The sessions with the monkeys and elephants were a blast. We could tell they were having a good time with the game."
 
"Our philosophy here is that Free Realms was meant to be played together." Penn said. "It's not just a game for kids, but also a game for the parents to play too. And that's just what's happening in-game with children and their parents, even grandparents! But we did not want to neglect all the animals in the family. A family that plays together stays together, even the furry, feathered, or scaled members of the family." Stable continues, "We firmly believe this is the next big step in the gaming industry. The industry has already expanded the audience base with casual games, but we feel that animal games will be the next wave of further growing the gaming audience."
 
 
 
There are plans on pets member subscriptions, but Penn also couldn't say the details on them at the moment. "We're looking into an affordable pricing model for pet membership." said Stable.
 
"We are anticipating to launch the animal-accessible update to Free Realms by the end of the year" says Stable.
The animal update is currently in alpha testing, but sign ups for beta testing is said to go up "real soon."
 
Free Realms Insider would like to thank Mr. Stable for letting us interview him, and we look forward to getting our paws on this new update.
 
 

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