The Idolm@ster series is well renowned for its cute virtual idols and ability to suck money out of fans' wallets with pricy DLC and slot machine-like tactics . Next up, snack wafers that let you make literal phone calls to your favorite virtual idols.
The Idolm@aster Wafers 2 are small, plain, rectangular chocolate sandwich wafer snacks, but the real motivator for people to get them, and more importantly spend money on them are the special cards included in each package. Each snack comes with one of 42 different cards and a special serial number. People can use the serial numbers to sign up at a designated website. They are then assigned one of the idols (at random) and are shown that idol's schedule for the day. They can then phone their assigned idol at any time for one day. Apparently voice recognition software is used so that people can hold virtual conversations with their assigned idols. The idols will apparently respond differently with how you answer their questions. The conversations also vary depending on the idol's schedule and the time the call is made.
This is not the first time that the developers at Namco Bandai have had characters from The Idolm@ster reach out to the real world. The original arcade game included a feature that allowed players to register their cell phone email addresses with the game which allowed them to receive emails from the idols they were training. (And also apparently led to people to essentially be summoned by their virtual idols to arcades to play the game.) The use of voice recognition software is an intriguing new touch, however, and fans are already flocking to reserve boxes of snacks.
The Namco Bandai website is taking reservations for the snacks in boxes of 20 for ¥2,100 (US$26.47), not including the phone bill. No price yet for individual packages will most likely be sold at convenience stores and designated Namco Bandai shops. The Idolm@aster Wafers 2 are currently scheduled for release in July, and the interactive phone feature will be available until the end of November. I'm tempted to get some just to test the limits of this voice recognition software…
(For those who are wondering, the first The Idolm@ster Wafers included codes that only allowed people to download voice samples.)