Appealing to the IM-generation, Eccky (created by Media Republic) is a multi-player concept that allows two people to create a virtual baby, add it to their MSN buddy list, and guide it through its childhood and teens. (For information in English, check out Eccky’s weblog.) The look and characteristics of the child are based on the unique ‘DNA’ of its parents, which is derived from a quiz the couple takes before conception. The parents then have 6 days (each real world day is equal to 3 Eccky years) to raise their Eccky into a happy, well-functioning 18 year old. Which is where instant messenging comes in: as with real children, communication is the key. Parents chat with their Eccky via MSN Messenger like they would with anyone else. Because Eccky is – in essence – a very fancy chatbot, it can engage in a conversation, responding with over 45,000 different answers about 3,500 recognized topics. The consumer price for creating an Eccky is EUR 1.50. In The Netherlands, supermarkets just started stocking several million bags of Doritos tortilla chips containing codes that are valid for the creation of one Eccky on the Doritos website, where users can find and flirt with potential co-parents (talk about a whole new level of dating and tryvertising ;-). Of course, the virtual child also needs to be fed and clothed, all of which costs credits. Extra credits can be bought by dialling a pay-per-call number, or by buying extra bags of Doritos. An innovative approach to sponsored content and in-game advertising, further underlining Kevin Kelly’s ‘online culture is the culture’ statement. Time to partner with the Ecckys of this world?