Xbox co-creator Kevin Bachus has joined former AOL-owned social networking site Bebo as chief product officer for the service, according to a new report on Venture Beat
The social networking site, sold by AOL to Criterion Capital Partners earlier this summer, has grown from about 12 million monthly active users at the time of the Criterion purchase to 20 million today, according to the report. About half of the site's total 117 million users visited Bebo in the last year, Bachus said.
It's still a far cry from industry-leading Facebook's 500 million total active users, but Bachus isn't focusing on toppling the social network giant with Bebo, a smaller company that he sees as more agile (Bebo's headcount is 25).
For him, it's about carving out a niche, and perhaps taking a few cues from his game industry experience.
"The thing that frightens me in social space is people look at it as one giant monolithic thing, where Facebook will dominate," he said. "But it is really like the game industry, where people see the big companies and don't see the nuances and the opportunities."
Bachus, along with Seamus Blackley, Ted Hase and Otto Berkes were the original masterminds behind Microsoft's first Xbox, which launched in 2001 after Bachus left the company.
Like other social networks, Bebo hosts a variety of games from social game developers including Playfish and Zynga. Social gaming continues to attract venture capital funding, and has been prompting acquisition and merger activity, such as Electronic Arts' $400 million Playfish acquisition
(including earn-outs) last year and Disney's $763.2 million acquisition of Playdom
in July this year.
AOL acquired Bebo in 2008 for $850 million, back when the network said it had 40 million users. But in June this year, the internet giant offloaded the company to Criterion Capital Partners in a deal reportedly worth less than $10 million.
As Bebo CEO Adam Levin focuses on revitalizing the network, Bachus' gaming and entertainment background could signal a ramp-up in Bebo's game-related plans. The average user is 17 years old, Bachus said, a younger demographic that likes to play games.
Since leaving Microsoft, Bachus has acted as a tech consultant, CEO for infamous Phantom company Infinium Labs and head of Russia's Nival Interactive.