Lycos Goes for the Game

Lycos today is expected to launch a Lycos Games section, building on its existing property. The move is aimed at helping it court a wider range of gaming enthusiasts, along with the advertisers that seek to reach them.

The new section isn’t an entry, but an expansion, into the gaming space for Lycos. It has operated as a site for casual gamers. With Lycos Games, the company hopes to expand the established audience to casual, competitive and hard core gaming enthusiasts. “We’re extending our demographic beyond the demo,” said Lycos COO Brian Kalinowski. “[We’re spending] a significant amount of effort enhancing Gamesville.”

Typically, hard core gamers tend to be young and male, while casual gamers skew older and encompass both males and females.

A portion of the new site’s ad inventory will be sold in-house. An additional share will be sold by 24/7 Real Media.

At launch, Lycos plans to run what Kalinowski called “targeted inventory,” ads catering to the gaming audience. “We have a constant pool of advertisers and a relatively aggressive sales force already on Gamesville,” he said. But Kalinowski noted that it’s tough to sell to advertisers until the site is more established. “We have to understand our inventory rates and how they’ll increase.”

Inventory demand on video game sites is high, though new playersare coming to market at the same time. “It’s a great market these days, inventory is in high demand and we’re happy to provide as much inventory as advertisers are looking for,” said Kalinowski.

Toward the end of Q1 or early Q2, the games site will get editorial content including news, reviews and cheats. The section will primarily be populated with feeds rather than original writing. Lycos said it is still in contract negotiations to supply cheats and content to the section. It will also populate the space with content from its “aggressive group at Wired who are developing stories,” said Kalinowski. Additional editorial will come from feeds from news organizations like AP and Reuters.

In addition to editorial, Lycos will distribute games through several models: primarily subscription and free-play. Lycos Games secured the exclusive U.S. Portal license for Game Factory’s Albatross 18, a multiplayer fantasy golf title. Additional categories include skill-based games like bingo, where players can win prizes. A casual games section includes downloads like PopCap’s Bejeweled. Lycos will also act as a distribution channel for downloads of full retail titles like Ubi Soft’s Prince of Persia.

A partnership with SkillJam will provide casual games on a pay-for-play, monthly subscription or download basis. Retail titles appealing to a more hard core audience will be available through a deal with Boonty.

“Our relationship with SkillJam is adding a lot more value,” said Kalinowski. “It’s extending our demographic and product offerings to help us expand our audience base.”

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