MySpace to Offer Casual Games, Monetized Through In-House Sales

In a bid to increase stickiness on its site, MySpace will introduce a casual games channel in the new year. The new channel follows the addition of two video series and other content offerings.

“To me, games is probably the stickiest thing you can put on a Web site,” said Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus and a ClickZ columnist. “For MySpace to come out and make a concerted effort to add games to their repertoire… it will increase time, or possibly combat loss of time spent on the site.”

MySpace games will be an ad-supported property with inventory in and around games. The social networking site partnered with white label casual games company Oberon to provide content for the channel. MySpace will take the lead in selling advertising. The channel is expected to become available early next year, and many of the details are being kept under close wraps, according to Ezra Kucharz, EVP of North American online operations and global online platforms at Oberon.

Users of MySpace will be able to put games on their profile pages, and challenge friends to play against each other or together in multi-player modes. The multi-player aspects create marketing opportunities for sponsored tournaments and branded leader boards, among other prospects.

Oberon and MySpace will welcome content from the developer community and offer a software developer kit to make it easy to create multiplayer and social gaming titles. “We are looking for developers who love to create games for this environment,” said Kucharz. “We have a great relationship with the developer community and this is another partner that Oberon can help developers reach. We have over 150 partners worldwide.”

Separately, MySpace on Monday announced “Roommates,” the first co-developed original Web series for the site. Ford signed on as a title sponsor, and MySpace plans to run in-stream advertising against the program. “Roommates” has a profile on the site, and is part of MySpaceTV. The video section hired Tom Bosco to head sales for the MySpaceTV channel in August.

The expansion into gaming and video content indicate a strategy on the part of MySpace to expand from a pure social networking site into more of a portal, said Schafer. “In a certain demographic, people might spend more time using MySpace than other Web sites; it acts as a hub in general,” said Schafer. “Portals try to give you everything you need to not have to leave these properties.”

Schafer sees the game channel and other site enhancements as smart moves for MySpace. “MySpace as a social utility makes a lot of sense to me,” he said. “That’s why it was built, for people to have a profile so people could find them. If MySpace goes into direct competition with a Yahoo or an MSN, the question is, can they win? There really isn’t that much difference now in terms of offerings between Yahoo and MySpace.”

Advertising against casual games may be more attractive to advertisers than consumer-generated content. “This can be a much more controlled environment, depending on how MySpace wants to do that,” said Schafer. “A lot of reasons people have avoided MySpace is the perceived lack of control you have in a moderated setting. It might be a more palatable way for advertisers to advertise on that property.

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