Hi5 Launches Game Developer Program, Offers Special Access to Users and Monetization

While Hi5 has increased its amount of rhetoric against Facebook, it has made some precise moves to attract game developers — especially from the Facebook Platform. It’s not clear if the moves will work, in part because Facebook has likely grown by the size of Hi5’s 50 million monthly active users already this year.

Hi5 is continuing to aggressively make the social network more of a gaming destination. Last week, it began supporting Facebook’s platform APIs, meaning developers with Facebook applications can more easily repurpose them to Hi5’s platform. Now, it’s announcing a special “Game Developer Program” intended to give third parties numerous advantages in reaching Hi5 users and making money. The catch is that all developers need to apply (here) to get into the program — a way for Hi5 to maintain quality. The specific benefits of the program include special ways for developers to reach users and make money.

Facebook recently took away notifications, a tool that many apps engaged users. Hi5 says it will give games a special one-click game install interface, access to let them send notifications to users in friend updates, and “un-capped invitations.” The last item means that developers in the program will not have apps limited by, say 30, invites a day — Facebook has made limits to help control spammy behavior. Hi5’s solution is to carefully approve and monitor its game developer partners, presumably kicking them out of the program if they get too spammy. Other special access points include APIs allowing games to add items in to user profiles, including user achievements and high scores.

And, Hi5 is going to be providing free banner ads, special appearances on its Games page (which is linked directly from the homepage) and in its games toolbar, recommend games to users, and more it will announce later. The plan here is to give smaller games a boost in users without having to buy advertising — on-site advertising is an increasingly important way for developers to reach users on Facebook.

Regarding money, some developers have been using Hi5 Coins, the site’s virtual currency, in their own games for many months. Now, anyone in the program will be able to, although it’s not saying what payment cut it’s taking. The currency includes 60 payment methods in 30 currencies. Hi5 also runs premium advertising alongside games, and it will share some of this revenue with games in the program.

So, while Hi5’s application platform will still exist, the program is intended to lure developers in to a tighter relationship with the company. New partners include: Detonator Games, Exponential Entertainment and Immortal Games.

Given its size and mature platform, Facebook is still going to be the priority for many developers. The second-largest social gaming platform, MySpace, has also just made big improvements to attract game developers. Hi5, however, is arguably the social platform most focused on games — specialization is a classic business strategy for a smaller competitor, and given where Hi5 is at, we think it’s making the right moves. We’ll see if it will work.