Why Is AOL Making Moves In Social-Mobile Gaming?

AOL's recently released mobile game and new redesign of Games.com indicate the Internet company sees a future for itself in social gaming.

Two weeks after AOL launched its first mobile game, the Draw Something-esque Clucks, yesterday, it unveiled a redesign for its Games.com portal, which hosts more than 5,000 free games for computer-based players.

The redesign brings a new focus on making games available and playable across platforms and devices, as more players are choosing to game not just on their computers, but on phones and tablets, as well.

VentureBeat reports Games.com sees about 3 million monthly active users in the U.S., though it's looking to bring that number up as it opens up some of its games for cross-platform play. To put Games.com's traffic into perspective, Draw Something alone reached nearly 15 million users at the peak of its popularity.

The question we have is why AOL is eyeing social-mobile games as Zynga is starting to show signs of serious strain. The struggling social games company fell short of analysts' already-low projections for its July second-quarter earnings. Last week, Zynga forewarned investors to brace themselves for a disappointing third quarter as well.

"We aren't focused on building the next hit game," Games.com's general manager John Fox told Fast Company in an email. "We are focused on getting hit games in front of the right users.”

As players continue to access games across multiple devices, Fox says, AOL has a huge opportunity to tap into the 112.8 million unique visitors to the AOL network and the 43.8 million uniques to AOL's mobile network.

And AOL already has a massive advertising network in place, as well as a myriad of content partners and game developers, all of which could help it create innovative and sustainable revenue models for its game, something Zynga always struggled with. If anything, Clucks sets a good precedent—AOL chose to eschew traditional forms of in-app ads and instead struck a partnership with Sony Pictures that promoted the studio's movies by making actors part of the game itself.

[Image: Flickr user Mariano Kamp]

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