Bondee, dubbed by its developer Metadream as the “next-gen social app,” is the latest app craze that proves that there is room for another social network. Quietly launched on Jan. 15, it allows users to create virtual versions of themselves in a simulated neighborhood and hang out with friends in the metaverse through sailing activities, instant messaging, and playful interactions.
Social media feeds have been littered with screenshots of clusters of bunker-like shelters with resident avatars, QR code invites, and Boy Abondee—a metaverse variant of television host Boy Abunda. There's so much to unpack in this free-to-download app reminiscent of Animal Crossing, Neko Atsume, and the Pet Society in the early Facebook era.
But can Bondee stay afloat in the sea of mobile apps? Or will it eventually fall into the death trap of a YASN (yet another social network) app? Here's a list of factors that will impact Bondee's life or imminent end:
Premise and Demise
The Bondee experience is a deja vu of Zepeto's playbook because of the familiar avatar customization mechanics in a simulated environment. While the personalization feature catapulted Zepeto to charts, people eventually forgot about the app so quickly.
According to the American Society for Information Science and Technology, a social networking app falls to its commercial death or the stage where it drops out of the top 200 list for more than 14 consecutive days, two months since its launch on average. Another study from Adobe showed that mobile apps achieve half their lifetime usage in the first six months. In short, by default, an app's days are numbered.
To add more salt to the wound, apps under the character customization genre fail to maintain their viral status due to the nature of its premise. The demise starts right after the creation of characters because no additional features make users stay.
Bondee's unique proposition of offering several social features in its early stage may counter the curse. With Facebook metaverse's decline and Twitter's chaotic management, Bondee should not let the opportunity to emerge pass.
Bondee's degree of gamification is low. Gamification, a concept not only closed to games per se, is a fun-invoking design to nurture long-term user engagement. These are simple features like progress bars, badges, random gift drops, or mechanics as complex as trading, group quests, and adventure storylines.
Avatar customization, the core of Bondee itself, is already a human-centered gamification design. However, it lacks purpose. Despite the game allowing self-expression and providing an outlet for creativity, in the long run, people need to receive feedback and rewards and respond in return.
The floating feature of the app could be the gamification card under its sleeve. Random drops of an item through bottles and the serendipitous meeting of creatures while sailing are promising mechanics. To float an idea, Bondee could explore mission completion to level up or fishing mechanism to craft rare elements, say, an intelligent home appliance or even a time machine.
Sticky notes could also evolve into a gamification concept of avoidance of the negative. For example, users should frequently log in to clear the sticky notes their neighbors posted in their rooms. This sticky engagement is giving a “Marie Kondo” energy to keep users busy visiting the app regularly.
Breaking by bonding
For Bondee’s neighborhood to stay for good, it should continue to break and disrupt the market. Social media is ripe for disruption. BeReal app successfully captured its niche market from the curated culture of the established Snapchat and Instagram. How can Bondee get its share from Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok's cakes?
As we might observe, Bondee is a rich multimedia variant of Twitter, at least during the latter's primitive years. Bondee is more of a broadcasting tool that can position itself between social media and social networking. Instead of developing more features, Bondee should focus on providing the benefits of sharing human emotions.
Would it be nice for Bondee to reflect the collective mood of your neighborhood? A niche of complimenting community apps such as the Gas app is emerging. Try to replace "social" with "meaningful" by creating bonds that uplift and celebrate wins.
Less is more
Creating artificial scarcity is a common marketing strategy. Bondee has limited room space, shorter text fields, and a cap of 50 friends, which is an ideal size for a guild should Bondee become more of a game. Aside from downtime prevention due to heavy web traffic, the intent of the restriction creates an exclusivity akin to Facebook's Harvard-only invites before they eventually became available to everyone.
A social network app is global by nature. The knee-jerk reaction of newly onboarded Bondee tenants is to fill their friend list. Hence, the barrage of QR codes on other social media platforms. Again, this behavior circles back to the gamified need for progress and users' sense of relevance and influence.
We hope Bondee will break the cycle and not fall as YASN promoting influencers. 50 is a manageable size to champion shared identity rather than celebrity adoration.
Scarcity paves the way for microtransactions to expand the user's possessions. Along with its virality comes a reminder that Bondee is NFT-ready, which impacts its appeal due to sustainability concerns. Sustainability follows a framework that considers people, profit, and the planet. Some users have uninstalled Bondee as a protest to NFT due to the environmental impact of blockchain technology.
B-Beans is Bondee's currency. While, as of posting, the items in the inventory are free, microtransaction is on the horizon. It will eventually allow users to customize their avatars with exclusive items because of gamification. Users can buy B-beans with their real-world currency in exchange for either visible-for-all overworld items or NFT products stored in the blockchain wallet.
While the latter’s implementation is yet to see the light of day, everyone can appreciate each other’s customizations without needing NFT.
Bondee is an app created by Singapore-based independent tech startup Metadream. With a clue from its namesake, the vision of Metadream is driving toward the metaverse. The interactive features such as group hangouts, sailing, and overworld "park" where the members of the neighborhood park their current thoughts and moods can lead to an ambitious trippy ride to a user-created alternate universe.
The company has a history of acquiring IP rights to True.ly, the firm that developed the now-defunct Zheli after the accusation of collecting data without permission. Metadream plans to introduce NFT features that affect the environment and an upcoming lineup of other metaverse-oriented products. But its milestones beg the question of whether Metadream can respond to the call to balance the care for the planet, people's rights equity, and company profit.
“Living La Vida Local”
Avatar customization is a popular genre in the Asian market. So it is not surprising when the app hit the top spot on Apple App Store's catalog charts in Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Malaysia, respectively. According to reports, Metadream will establish regional operation centers in Thailand and the Philippines.
Taking cues from the Filipino-developed social live-streaming app Kumu and the rapid rise of Bondee-community-driven memes, the look-and-feel referencing the Pinoy pop culture is the key to carrying on the hype. Filipinos love to celebrate their identity by creating content despite the limiting features. Suppose Bondee can permit to recreate Pinoy slice-of-life such as iconic stripe-and-floral bedsheets and balikbayan boxes or to fish local and traditional items while sailing. In that case, Bondee will invite more users other than Gen Z as it becomes more inclusive to Batang '90s and the classic Titos and Titas of Manila. Bondee will set up a solid user base in the Philippines. The same formula goes with other Asian markets.
Holding the rooms together
The hype of Bondee is another manifestation of this generation's subscription to the fear of missing out. With the mobile app fatigue and shrinking attention-retention span in mind, the challenge to Metadream is to create meaningful value out of its Bondee app. The firm should follow the mission to pick up and incorporate sustainable gamification and localization elements in the app to extend the predicted lifespan. Until then, the avatars are clock-watching.