Chris DeWolfe doesn’t believe there will ever be another Zynga. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t trying to build his own social gaming empire.
DeWolfe, who co-founded MySpace and served as CEO until 2009, has been amassing a collection of social gaming and mobile startups ever since raising funding and then acquiring the social gaming platform MindJolt in 2010. Since then, MindJolt has expanded into game development and distribution through a string of acquisitions. Thus, DeWolfe looking to sharpen the company’s brand. Starting next week, MindJolt will morph into Social Gaming Network, named after a startup the company snatched up last April. Social Gaming Network better represents where the company is headed.
“We’ve been rolling up companies, financed by private equity,” said DeWolfe. Those companies include Hall Pass Media, which maintains a large online gaming presence, as well as others with strong footprints on Facebook and in mobile.
“Business has been getting even better,” said DeWolfe. “We’ve been getting really aggressive. We’ve been profitable since day one. And we’ve got four different places where we can make money on games.”
Those four places include Facebook, mobile devices, the Web and tablets. DeWolfe sees that multi-platform approach as a major differentiator. While there are some differences in game play on touch screens versus PC games vs. Facebook, he thinks many game developers are too single-minded. “Most companies focus on just mobile or just Facebook…for Zynga, mobile is an afterthought.”
And for most other companies, Facebook is Zynga’s territory, and Zynga’s alone. To hear DeWolfe tell it, it’s exceedingly difficult to launch a new viral social game these days, ever since Facebook locked down the way games like FarmVille spread through millions of automated notifactions. “Zynga kind of just blew them all away,” said DeWolfe. “Now, to launch games you have to have the ability to cross-promote between games. Zynga has that and we have that whenever we launch new games. We’re never starting from scratch.”
In 2012, the plan is for Social Gaming Network to roll out 11 social games, as well as 10 mobile games, available on multiple platforms. Unlike Zynga, which has recently made advertising more of a priority, selling ads isn't in SGN's immediate future. "We're more of a media buyer than seller," DeWolfe said. "You'll see us do some brand integrations, but that's not our focus."
Another place you won’t see SGN focus on is Google+. Despite Zynga’s move onto Google+, and Google’s efforts to create a viable social gaming platform, DeWolfe doesn’t see it. “I recently visited USC and spoke to 100 college kids,” he said. “I asked them to raise their hands if they use Google+. Not one person did.”