In a move issued by South Korean parent company Daum Entertainment, Lycos has expanded their casual games portal, Gamesville, into new territories. Along with a name change to "Lycos Games," the portal will also change its strategy, introducing exclusive, unique games to the American market. The first, appropriately enough, is a popular Korean MMO golf game called Albatross 18: Realms of Pangya. In this exclusive interview, Lycos COO Brian Kalinowski discusses the portal's future plans, and where it stands in the market.
A Home For Indie Games?
"Lycos itself is still widely accepted as a portal and as such, competes against the other top portals, like Yahoo, MSN, and AOL," said Kalinowski. "Clearly one of our goals was to create a gaming destination to put us not only with other gaming portables, but to first of all differentiate ourselves with introduction of exclusive games, games that we will acquire from US and Asia as well as European markets. And second, in line with our overall strategy, create a site where independent game developers will eventually find a home for the distribution and sale of their games."
|Could indie games like Darwinia find a home at Lycos?|
Details for Lycos' relationship with independent game developers have not yet been worked out, though Kalinowski did share a few scant details. "We're going to be creating an entire platform for the indie developers, to allow them to basically upload their games, create executables and distribute and market them through our network, with some marketing tools that we provide for free, as well as some services that they can pay additional fees for," he said.
"We haven't gotten to that step yet, but the launch of Lycos Games now is the foundation of our larger gaming vision."
For now, Lycos is focusing on being the sole United States distributor of games from other regions. "We're working with a number of smaller publishers to bring exclusive games to market," he said. "We're looking to do this with MMOs and casual games, as well as the more typical hardcore games."
When asked if Lycos Games could potentially bring older titles back into the market, such as Turner Broadcasting's Gametap is currently doing, Kalinowski took a personal approach. "Being a 39-year-old guy myself, I would love to bring back some of the older games that exist," he said. "I think there might be an aggressive market for that for people who might want to get back into gaming, and maybe want to start out with something familiar before moving on to the new titles. As a personal vision I would love to be bringing back some of the older vintage games from the 80s, we just have to find the right partners for that."
"The plus is that we have four models, subscription, advertising, download, and also through partnerships we can be offering a micropayment system. So we have the revenue models to support any type of gaming platform, including vintage games that may lend themselves to advertising models."
|The Lycos Games splash page|
"Gamesville has been a relatively strong brand, and even through multiple changes it had a loyal following," Kalinowski said of the casual games portal that Lycos purchased in 1999. "So we figured, okay, let's figure out what to do with Gamesville. First we need to take it out of niche market, so we needed more variety of games. So at that point, great, we're just like everybody else, same games as Popcap and Big Fish and the others, and that brought us to the need for exclusivity."
Kalinowski attributes the relative ease of finding new content to Lycos' long establishment in the online business world. "You start making your business connections, and you find relationships you didn't know you had with companies you didn't know existed," he said.
The first exclusive title, as mentioned, is Korean developer Game Factory's golf MMO, Albatross 18. "The graphics, design, and playability is really fantastic, and from our perspective it's nice because it's family-oriented, it runs the gauntlet from the perspective of who would be interested," said Kalinowski. "I let my 10-year-old play it online, you can extend the golf game all the way through middle-aged folks. It's a really interesting find for us, and an interesting company. They have a couple more games that we're looking at, but I can't talk about those yet."
|Albatross 18: Realms of Pangya|
"We hope to release one new, unique game every six to eight weeks," he continued.
Actual game development, said Kalinowski, is not in Lycos' future. "There are too many people out there doing exceptional work already," he said.
Ultimately, the goal if Lycos games is to draw in players seeking new titles, and keep them around by offering the standard casual games they already play, creating a one-stop shop of sorts. With a host of sites out there sharing the same goal, one wonders if the occasional exclusive title is compelling enough to make Lycos Games stand out above the crowd.