GSN Digital Sees Booming Business in Putting Traditional Game Show Games On Facebook

1/3/11Follow @xconomy

You might not think of avid Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune viewers as the most technologically savvy population, but that’s not stopping GSN Digital from taking its classic products to Facebook.

“People say traditional brands don’t work on Facebook; we never believed that,” says GSN Digital executive vice president Peter Blacklow. “We always believed that Facebook would evolve like any media business would and great brands would rise to the top.”

GSN Digital, the Waltham, MA-based digital gaming unit of the Game Show Network, is eyeing the social networking giant as a big money maker for its crop of classic game shows. The subsidiary, which includes the Facebook games products as well as an online gaming site and an online ad network, is approaching a $100-million-per-year business, says Blacklow.

The intellectual property and games inventory at GSN Digital go back to the Newton, MA-based WorldWinner, which got rolled into Game Show Network through a series of acquisitions and formed GSN Digital. Game Show Network, which is owned by Sony and DIRECTV, considered moving the digital gaming unit to its headquarters in Santa Monica, CA, but decided to keep GSN Digital in the Bay State to play off the energy of the state’s digital gaming industry, Blacklow says.

GSN Digital initially focused on using its destination gaming website, GSN.com, as a way to drive interest in the television network, but the site has recently become a strong profit source on its own, Blacklow says. “We’re taking it from being a cost center to being a profit center,” he says. “Now it’s a real business with real revenues.”

The GSN site allows users to play for free, generating cash from sponsors, but also has a paid version where users can earn currency called “oodles” to win prizes. “We’ve created a couple of properties that focus not just on games for the sake of playing games, but playing games in a social setting for a prize element and a competitive element,” Blacklow says.

For those who don’t think to go to GSN.com to play games, the firm has taken its game inventory to Facebook, which Blacklow says is the “hottest, sexiest piece of the business.” Its crop of 50-plus games on Facebook skyrocketed in 2010, growing from 1 million monthly users to nearly 7 million monthly active users over the last six to nine months, says Blacklow.

The GSN Games app for Facebook includes games like Family Feud, as well as more classic Hasbro board game titles and the social game Dumbville. The games function around virtual currency, giving users a number of free tokens to start off and then requiring them to buy more to keep on playing. The company is also looking for celebrities to endorse several of its games for Facebook in the coming year. “If you can create a game around large celebrities and endorser figures, you can rise above the clutter of the 10,000 games apps,” Blacklow says.

“In 2009 it didn’t exist, in 2010 it’s set to generate couple million bucks,” Blacklow says of the Facebook business of GSN Digital. “It’s just on fire from a scale standpoint of consumers, and also the revenue is just taking off.”

The subsidiary is also looking to enter into the mobile arena in the coming year, and sees itself snapping up interesting gaming startups to add to its inventory, Blacklow says.

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