My Secret World is the latest in a long line of Imagine games released on the Nintendo DS. The series seems to be only just getting started with more spins off titles than you can, well…. imagine.
In 2007, four Imagine games were released. These were Happy Cooking, Fashion Designer, Pet Vet and Babies. Four games from one series is pretty unusual in videos games, but the developers of the Imagine series, Ubisoft, were just getting warmed-up.
In 2008 they have released an almost unbelievable 11 new games for the series. These Imagine Titles were; Figure Skater, Girl Band, Teacher, My Secret World, Babysitters, Baby Club, Fashion Model, Modern Dancer, Fashion Designer New York, Champion Rider and Pet Hospital.
Wait, that's not all. Before the end of 2008 they plant to release 7 more. The 7 forthcoming Imagine titles are; Party Babyz, Interior Designer, Wedding Designer, Gymnast, Movie Start, Ballet Star and Fashion Party.
18 games from a series in a single year is unheard of. Even with Nintendo seemingly releasing every second title as a Mario game, it still doesn't come close to this. So why are so many Imagine games being released in such a short space of time?
Ubisoft are targeting the female audience of video games players who have until recently been fairly under-catered for. This hasn't just been a case of games developers being sexist. Many games developers have tried games targets at females but the sales just haven't made it a profitable venture.
The Nintendo DS has managed for the first time to attract a more evenly spread audience of males and females. This has been done by producing games such as Nintendogs which focuses on a subject which is seen as less male orientated. Since the Nintendo DS has succeeded where other have not, Ubisoft have set themselves a target of capitalising on the large female proportion of DS owners.
Whereas video games typically focus on adventures and battles, casual female gamers tend to be more drawn toward more life-like situations. For example, in Imagine: Teacher the player takes on the role of a teacher, rather than leading an army or raiding tombs. Others in the Imagine series aren't really what you would consider a game. My Secret World for DS is more of an interactive diary with personality tests than a game.
It could be questioned how high the quality of these games are, since so many are being produced in such a short time. The games certainly don't give the appearance of a rushed job with attractive and unique interfaces in each. The gameplay however feels shallow and repetitive.
It could be said that the Imagine series is more reliant on its subject matter, cute graphics, packaging and advertising campaign than its gameplay. It certainly seems that the series is successful yet it does not have great reviews. Video game review website IGN state that Imagine: Teacher is the best of series and still only rates it with 7.5 out of 10, while others score even lower with Imagine: Rockstar earning just 3.2 out of 10.