MySpace Looks for More Social Game Developers with Big Platform Upgrades

MySpace is giving social gaming a big upgrade today, adding a new set of features, and partners, that intend to make third-party gaming apps a prominent part of the service.

The integration of games into MySpace’s core interface could specifically give game engagement a big boost. “Games” has replaced “Apps” as a tab in the site’s top navigation bar. Click on it and you’ll see a revamped page called “Games & Apps,” that contains a number of new features for games. Users’ home pages also now include a “Featured Games” window on the right-hand side that shows you games that MySpace staff has recommended. And, more updates from apps will now appear within users activity “Stream” of updates, including when friends score an app from 1 to 5 stars.

Meanwhile, the “Games & Apps” tab has gotten more features intended to help users find and engage with games. On the top right-hand module of the page, you can see your friends latest activities in apps. Another part of the page, “Featured,” shows games that are handpicked for quality by MySpace staff. “Suggestions” uses an algorithm to figure out which apps might appeal to each user the most, and includes a way to sort by only game apps. These suggestions are based on factors like which kinds of games users have already played, which ones their friends have been playing, and how well the apps are ranked by users.

Developers who have built apps for MySpace already will appreciate these changes, as the company previously gave games minimal attention. Some game actions showed up in users’ streams, and games appeared within a simpler apps page. That was it.

MySpace has still been the de facto place for social game developers to go besides Facebook. While many applications have gained millions of users — see our most recent list of top 25 MySpace games for more on that — a main way to gain an audience was through advertising within MySpace’s apps page. The company’s goal with the launch today is to have social games help increase the number of users and their engagement.

It already has around 100 million monthly active users worldwide, although this number has been falling in the past year. Of its users, 28 million use apps every month, and more than half of those play games; 56% female, and 44% male. With the updates today, co-President Mike Jones says the company is aiming to get half the site’s users gaming every month.

Social games launching on MySpace today include:

The company is also announcing a couple other new, related projects today. One is an iPhone app called Neon, designed for games. You can log in with your MySpace account, see notifications and app invites from friends, and respond. While you can’t play games within the app, your responses will be recorded within MySpace. For example, MySpace’s Mobsters role-playing game might tell you that you’ve gained a free gun in the game, and you can click to approve this. When you accept friends’ invites to apps, MySpace will install the app on your profile on the site. This is not the only MySpace iPhone app planned, by the way — it also has more coming for the main site, as well as for other areas it focuses on, like music and entertainment.

It also has a few service partners it’s announcing: game development tool Unity, cross-platform social feature provider ScoreLoop and cloud gaming service Groovy Cortext.

MySpace’s gaming efforts have also included more fundamental changes to its developer platform, recently coming out with an analytics API, for example, that helps developers better track user metrics. The company has, as many readers know, been going through bigger changes. The News Corp.-owned company’s chief executive, Owen Van Natta, was let go last month; with Jones and another executive, Jason Hirschhorn, becoming co-presidents. All of these executives came on less than a year ago, replacing the company’s founding executive team. The company has spent much of the last year talking about how it’s going to become more of an entertainment service, but up to this point it has been focused on other areas, like music. Games are now front and center.