Parks Associates Blog

Monday, November 05, 2007

Oberon Banks on Web 2.0

Oberon Media, a leading casual gaming company, today revealed that it will launch a developer API for Google's OpenSocial standard, a common set of APIs for social applications across multiple websites. According to company officials, ""It will encourage more interactivity among casual gamers, more viral spread among this audience and result in more opportunities to monetize this activity for our partners. Together with our developer partners, we will enable people to interact more closely through casual gaming on Google's OpenSocial Standard."

The leap of Oberon represents an overall trend of casual gaming companies embracing Web 2.0 and social media. In a recent press release about our new casual gaming report, we asserted that casual gaming is still the most popular online entertainment activity but warned casual gaming companies that social networking and online video are catching up quickly. "“The casual gaming industry cannot rest on its laurels. In order to counter the growing competition from other online activities, the industry needs to continue to grow its fan base and find ways to better monetize its existing audience.”

In the casual gaming report, we provided further commentary regarding casual gaming and Web 2.0:

Compared to the flamboyant marketing campaigns of the core video games, the majority of casual games have no brand recognition, and publishers lack financial resources for traditional advertising or marketing. Although casual game portals promote casual titles, it is word of mouth that helps casual games become successful. Social networking is therefore a perfect fit for casual game marketing. Several companies have begun to leverage popular social networking Web sites. PopCap is mulling over the possibility of placing Bejeweled or Zuma on MySpace or Facebook. Kongregate, a new game portal that relies on user-generated game content, has a widget for players to share their game scores and achievements on Facebook and will soon add friend challenges and embedded gaming functions. Nevertheless, the traditional casual games players are not avid users of social networks. Although for companies like Kongregate and casual MMOs/virtual worlds that are targeting younger audience, combining casual games and social networks make sense, it seems for companies mainly focusing on older females, the network marketing mechanism will work better because the audiences are already familiar with Mary Kay or Amway. A more advanced implementation of Web 2.0 marketing is for game publishers to set up their own social networking circles to spread the word and promote games. Big Fish Games broke ground in this area by establishing two parallel programs -- Principal Network Partner (or PNP) and MyGameSpace. They mirror network direct marketing schemes, sharing sales revenue with users and affiliates. To date, these two programs account for 25 -30% of new users to the Big Fish Games portal.

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