Jeff Bezos and Amazon Are Banking on the Games People Play (on Social Networks)

7/14/08Follow @gthuang

iPhone, schmy-Phone. While games and other applications developed for Apple’s iPhone have been all the rage for the last few days, there’s another sector worth keeping an eye on: social-network gaming, or games made for online platforms like Facebook, MySpace, and Bebo, which typically need to be played on a desktop or laptop. VentureBeat is reporting today that Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has invested an undisclosed amount in one of these companies: Palo Alto, CA-based Social Gaming Network, which claims 1.1 million users (mostly on Facebook).

The news comes on the heels of Seattle-based Atomic Moguls—a small company backed by Amazon, Second Avenue Partners, and others—raising an additional $1 million last week. As reported in the Seattle P-I, Atomic Moguls’ games have already been installed by some 1.5 million social-network users, and the company is planning to launch about a thousand new fantasy-sports gaming applications by the end of the summer— variations on the theme of assembling football or soccer players for a team and competing against other teams based on real-world stats.

Meanwhile, Social Gaming Network just raised $15 million in May, and is looking to make money by selling ads, as well as encouraging users to buy virtual goods in its games. Online “casual gaming” is a huge market ($2.25 billion a year in the U.S. alone, according to the Casual Games Association), and it will be interesting to see whether the new crop of games for the iPhone and other mobile devices will pull players away from the more traditional Web-based and social-networking platforms. Or perhaps some sort of hybrid will emerge. I just wish there was more time in the day to try these games… or not.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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