GSN Digital Adds Ex-Zynga Exec to Amp Up Mobile, SF Presence

10/3/12Follow @xconomy

Last time I caught up with Waltham, MA-based GSN Digital, the digital games unit of the Game Show Network was seeing its Facebook business really start to heat up. About a year and a half later, the company is experiencing a similar take off with its newly launched mobile channels, and is figuring just how to piece together those mobile, social, and Web game destinations, executive vice president Peter Blacklow tells me.

Late last month, GSN Digital—which has roots as the startup WorldWinner and came to the Game Show Network through a series of acquisitions—announced it had hired Jeff Karp as its new executive vice president of mobile & social games Karp comes most recently from Zynga, where he was chief revenue & marketing officer, and before that worked for Electronic Arts as executive vice president of its Play Label division.

“When Peter and I look at the business, it’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as opportunities go,” Karp says, pointing to the 1 billion people that the game industry estimates to be playing across devices and channels.

GSN launched mobile apps in the iTunes and Google Play stores in December, and generates its mobile revenue through the sale of virtual currency within the games. That’s also how GSN has been making money from its Facebook presence, as the social media site did not allow the cash-entry, skill-based games on its platform, Blacklow says.

GSN Digital develops its game titles by working with partners, like PopCap Games and its Bejeweled game, to create play-for-cash tournament experiences. It also develops online games and offshoots of brands like Wheel of Fortune, and has been fine-tuning back-end algorithms to more intelligently match players at similar skill levels and increase retention on the site.

As the newer gaming outlets have continued to grow, the company has still invested in the gaming experience on its destination website, GSN.com. In fact, Blacklow says GSN Digital is working to bring the virtual currency model and other lessons learned on mobile and social back to its website.

“They’re all fast-growing profitable business in their own right, right now,” he says. “We’re just starting to figure out how mobile can leverage some of our successes on Facebook, and how [GSN.com] can leverage Facebook. We’re just beginning to understand how consumers who play on one platform are going to play on the other. Jeff is really interested in digging deeper and understanding how all of these intersecting pieces of the business are going to work together.”

Karp will work out of the now 35-person San Francisco office. All told, GSN Digital has about 150 employees, between Waltham, San Francisco, and a small development team in Washington, DC. They are hiring for about 40 open positions across the company.

“We’re trying to think more strategically about taking nice businesses that have been cobbled together and turning them into a great consumer experience,” Blacklow says.

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