In a revolutionary move, Japanese toy company Bandai is using the Internet to provide consolation to lonely Japanese men in search of female company.
Previously known for its Ketchagotchi, Dodgimon and Power Mounties lines, promoters from Bandai have now come up with adult fantasy characters with whom subscribers can exchange flirtatious messages.
According to Bandai, thousands of males have already signed up to experience a virtual relationship.
Despite the initial success rates, analysts are saying the cyber girls are unlikely to prove successful in the long run as Internet consumers are more accustomed to the business applications of virtual technologies.
"Internet users are just not accustomed to accessing the Internet for emotional or physical gratification," said Blind Freddy, a senior analyst for research group Garter International. "Everyone knows the Internet is primarily a business tool."
After paying a monthly subscription fee, users are provided with the contact details of a cyber chick that fits their specifications. Subscribers are then encouraged to communicate with their cyber partners via the Internet or WAP-enabled phones.
Subscribers are warned from the outset that the cyber chicks are likely to terminate a relationship if they feel the user is coming on too heavy, and are encouraged to limit their communication until they have established sufficient "trust and respect" to take the relationship further. Many have discovered that providing their credit card details will quickly promote them to the next level.
Although Bandai is claiming the site does not foster "hankypanky", Garter's Freddy is concerned that the virtual girlfriends may excite the passions of otherwise controlled businessmen, leading to uncontrolled bursts of messaging.
"Our main concern is that we are dealing with a complete unknown - no one has used the Internet to stimulate lonely men before. I just can't see this kind of thing leading to the growth of the medium in any way."