Mandarin Madness has cracked the 1000-download milestone, and has plans to leverage its unique "agnostic language mechanic" to boost its growing popularity with users in China and Korea.
A paid version of the Mandarin learning application was released today, after the free version was downloaded 1285 times, which was led by Android smartphone owners in China (25 per cent) and Korea (10 per cent). The iPhone version will be released in the near future, and there are plans to launch an English version by January, and to tap into the Korean mobile-gaming market.
The application emerged from the inaugural Startup Weekend event in Melbourne earlier this year, where Matthew Ho led a team to build a prototype of an app that would make language learning fun.
It recently exhibited at the Techcrunch conference in Beijing, and Ho is encouraged by the traction in China and Korea, which is possible, because the app is "language agnostic".
It teaches using images, as opposed to translating specific words, and can be easily rolled out to a range of different countries.
"We went to great pains to develop something language agnostic," he said. "It is highly visual and gameplay based, and we didn't need to have some translation."
"It's a big barrier for others apps; a lot are translation based, so to learn Chinese you might need to have an English background. It also restricts what you can learn, how much you can learn and is based on the word you can tie back in English."
To reach new markets, there is minimal translation required, because it isn't tied to any particular language, and instead can just focus on the user experience and sensory engagement.
"The language agnostic is something we came up, so you can play with no real instruction."
The target user is a student that is between grades kindergarten to year 12 , and Ho understands that he is competing for the same mindshare that is dominated by the likes of Angry Birds.
"We're moving towards a storyline, similar to Angry Birds, where you can progress to later stages, with common characters across these different products," he said. "The French product might have a French poodle."
"As a company, we need to have the capability of a games studio, with an educational background. We have these game designers, and we play games all the time and look at the best games."
The company is currently seeking investment funding.
It's language agnostic and wants to be a learning platform.
I'm not sure people will play to learn a few words in a new language, especially when this isn't totally integrated with a language curriculum.
Language learning is a huge market. Because it isn't tied to a particular language, there are some fantastic opportunities to change the way that people learn languages.
In its current form, there is limited financial potential, and it will need to explore innovative new business models. It could be replicated by other developers.
Being language agnostic means that the concept can roll out to any country, and also creates amazing possibilities for innovation in how people learn languages. I don't believe that too many people will pay for the application in its current form, but I believe that there is the scope for some innovative new business models. In the meantime, I am confident that they will secure funding to support these efforts.