RealNetworks renovates its GameHouse business to be more social


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First, there was ubiquitous computing. Now comes ubiquitous gaming.

RealNetworks, which is looking to cast off its games business as a separate company later this year, on Tuesday relaunched the division as GameHouse. The company’s ambitious plans are to be a platform for online games that can be purchased once and played anywhere -- whether it’s on Facebook, an iPhone or Android.

Right now, games on Facebook often can’t be played elsewhere. That’s because it is a giant pain to create different versions of a Facebook game for other sites or devices. It’s especially tricky for mobile phones, where some developers have to create hundreds of different versions of the game -- one for every type of cellphone out there.


GameHouse President John Barbour says he wants to change that with a new platform called Fusion. Here’s how it works: A developer cranks a game through Fusion, which then generates hundreds of clones that can be played on any number of devices.

But that’s just the beginning. Barbour also wants to tap into social networks, using games as the glue for people to interact with each other.

‘People are looking for connected experiences,’ Barbour said. ‘By connecting devices, you connect people. The future is about truly interconnected gameplay, where I can play with my friends across multiple systems whether it’s PC, mobile, iPad or social network.’

But that’s a ways off. To start with, GameHouse on Tuesday launched a Facebook app with more than 1,000 casual games, most of which are also on its own site, which attracts about 50 million unique visitors a month. Last year, the business generated $120 million in revenue, according to Barbour.

But compared with Zynga’s Farmville, which attracts 31 million visitors a day, GameHouse’s game plan could face some heavy competition on the social gaming front. In other words, it has to hoe a lot of fields to compete with Farmville.

-- Alex Pham