Facebook may lead the pack, but once-dominant social network beefs up dev strategy with game SDK and more

GDC: Games key to MySpace revamp

A major overhaul of MySpace, the social network that now plays second fiddle to Facebook, is in the offing – with games an important part of its new strategy.

At GDC the firm detailed a range of modifications to its site that will make games easier to play and discover on the site.

"People use MySpace for discovery and to get discovered," said Mike Jones, co-CEO of MySpace.

But he conceded that while this was key to how MySpace became so popular in the music industry and for supporting its talent, "we lost sight of the fact this was something we were really good at".

So MySpace’s overhaul will see the firm build a recommendation engine to support this plan, making games and other content easier to find, while the site limits its target audience to a core of 14 to 34 year olds.

Games are, of course, great ways to make sure users stay on a social network for long periods of time – hence why Jones says they are "a big part" of MySpace’s new strategy.

33m activities take place a day on MySpace, according to Jones, and games generate 100m monthly users, playing a billion minutes

He said a third of users play games daily on MySpace – but the firm wants that to be closer to 50 per cent, effectively doubling the number of users that play social games on MySpace.

But to encourage that – and a wider uptake of MySpace – the site needs more ways to make games viral and engaging. So new notification patterns and other tweaks will ‘gently’ change the interface for consumers and developers.

Jones hinted that this was a previous weakness for the site, adding that "we will do everything we can to fix the viral issue."

More analytics elements will be added, too, he said, and pointed out that MySpace embraces a number of open standards such as OpenID, OpenSocial and PubSubHubbub.

But also two specific new elements of the social network, built by MySpace, are key to making games work on the site, explained Benson Chan, product manager for games.

To aid discovery and engagement, the firm has launched a new games gallery, which "makes it easier to discover new games through social recommendations, and find the games they are currently playing".

A personalised recommendations engine will mean new and popular titles are promoted to users (MySpace has invested heavily in this recommendations engine to aid discovery for all kinds of content found on the site).

"MySpace needs to make it easy to discover contents that caters to your tastes," admitted Chan.

"The problem we have been trying to slve is how we get users to stay connected to addictive games on the platform."

One answer to that is MySpace Neon – and iPhone App that lets users manage games when they are away from PC,

"MySpace right now has a large portion on mobile everyday – our mobile usage is off the charts," said Jones. "We realise we can’t bring full rich Flash rendering to IPhone, but we can add simpler notifications to mobile."

Neon presents a simple interface that looks at MySpace user’s games, invites and other notifications.

This games-only app is part of a wider push by MySpace to launch a wave of smaller apps that relate to the specific kinds of content on the site.

But MySpace isn’t building all the tech to support this itself – it has partnered with Unity 3D to allow the firm’s web browser plug in to allow full rendering in MySpace games.

Other partners include Scoreloop (for high scores and leader boards) and Groovy Cortex (which supplies push notifications).

"These are the first steps in offering robust tools for developers to help their businesses thrive," said Jones in a press announcement distributed after the event.

"We’ve been working with our developer partners to understand where they’d like to see MySpace go; based on that feedback we started rebuilding MySpace Games.

"We believe the new experience will empower even more of the MySpace audience to discover, share, and showcase games, which along with music and movies, are core to our content strategy."

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