Startup ditches dating site for video games

November 12, 2010

When his original startup concept flopped, Charles Forman decided to give his dating site a makeover.

The New York-based software programmer switched his business model from flirting online to multi-player video games and launched OMGPOP in 2009.

“The original idea didn’t do so well at first,” said Forman, who had launched OMGPOP’s predecessor – – in 2006. “Once we put games on the site traffic increased immediately.”

Fascinated by the demand for casual game content and the notion of creating a collective online community, Forman gathered a workforce and rolled out single and multi-player games.

“Creating an engaging positive community within the online atmosphere was a priority,” said Forman, who initially secured $6,000 from Y Combinator, a popular San Francisco-based seed fund.

OMGPOP later assembled a round of angel investors that included Digg founder Kevin Rose and has raised another $6.5 million in two separate rounds from Spark Capitol, Bessemer Venture Partners, Betaworks, SV Angel, and Baseline Ventures. The company is reportedly seeking new funding that could bring in more than $10 million, according to Media Memo.

All games are free to play, but users have the option to purchase virtual items that can be used as an advantage, or for cosmetic purposes during a game. Members have the option of subscribing to a star account ($10 for three months) or purchasing coins ($5 for 50 virtual coins). Additionally, the company collects revenues via online ads.

Forman said OMGPOP has 4 million registered users and released its first Facebook game – Cupcake Corner – in August.

Unlike the experience on the main site, Forman said Facebook players are generally participating in game play against their friends. He added that the popularity of Facebook makes it a great source for game developers. Forman said that of Facebook’s more than 500 million users, 200 million have played social games on the site.

“This platform will just continue to grow,” he said. “We hope to triple our games and be available on more platforms by the end of 2012.”

OMGPOP’s target audience is primarily teenagers and young adults, between the ages of 16 and 22, said Forman. OMGPOP currently has 17 games and Forman credits its success with creating quality game content which is easy to share via social media platforms.

Forman said the industry is headed in the direction of games as a service, in contrast to the traditional theory of games as a product.

“In the conventional gaming industry you would develop a game and if you are lucky it would take at least two years,” said Forman. “Then it gets packaged and placed on store shelves for purchase. Now we can release a game after it’s developed, see what people think about it in real time and refine the game instantly.”

Forman said content development and staffing are the biggest challenges in growing OMGPOP.

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