With 65 million registered users Belgium-based Netlog is one of the major European social networks. Between one third and half of Netlog’s users are active, most of them are between 13 and 24. In Collaboration with Spil Games Netlog launched casual games end of last year. Since the beginning of this year social games where slowly rolled out and tested. Today the social network claims to have about two million unique gaming sessions per day. We talked with Netlog about their positioning, their views on Facebook and about the importance of social games.
Social Games Observer: How important is the games section for Netlog?
Netlog: The games show how we identify ourselves as a network. It is about meeting new people. Playing social games online is a great way to meet people and a great opportunity for people to exchange and connect. Games lower the threshold to communicate. If I challenge somebody in a game or steal your crops it is the first step to start communication. We see games as a way to increase user engagement and, of course, to monetize our users. Also it is a way to support our strategy to position Netlog as a network where you meet new people instead of staying in touch with people you know like you do on Facebook.
SGO: What kinds of games are currently popular on Netlog and why do count gaming activity in terms of unique game play sessions?
Netlog: The traditional games are popular: farming, mafia games and football games. But I think it is too early to draw conclusions, we are constantly adding games that we hope will match and will monetize well. We try to find games that are the perfect match with our audience.
Mobster Legends has been played over 30 million times in 3 months which we consider quite a lot. Happy harvest has an own virtual currency and about 200 thousand unique players and it is one of our best performing social games. We indicate activity in game play sessions because most of our games currently are casual games for which unique game play sessions are the most interesting measurement.
SGO: In a nutshell, why is it interesting for developers to launch their games on netlog?
Netlog: There are lots of opportunities. Everybody looks at Facebook now and everybody can develop games for Facebook. The results of that are hundreds of thousands of Facebook games in which you need to invest heavily into advertising to get users for your game. What Netlog tries to do is build a partnership with each game developer. We try to provide traffic and we monetize the user together. We develop a media plan and we share revenue.
Additionally we cherry pick games. You will not see games live that do not match our core audience. We review all games that go live. We do not want 20 poker games and 20 farm games. If you have 20 farming games it is likely that only one will work and we cannibalize our revenue. We prefer to have a living community around one game rather than ten communities around ten games. You need to reach a critical mass before you can start to monetize.
SGO: How many games are on your network right now?
Netlog: It depends, including all casual games it’s a few hundred, but If you count the games that have a virtual currency and monetize well we probably have about 25-30 games. We have a lot more games in the pipeline though. For example, other Elex games are coming, as well as some iJet games.
SGO: Are you working with the industry giants like Zynga or rather with small developers?
Netlog: We work with Playfish, for example. The problem with Zynga is that they are really focussing on Facebook after their 5 year agreement and even pull down games from other social networks like Tagged. The major players focus on Facebook only, that’s why we think there are huge opportunities for small developers on other social network – not only on Netlog but also, for example, on VZ networks.
SGO: How do you handle notifications on Netlog?
Netlog: We have two main viral drivers. One is the activity postings where you see what is happening on the network. It is displayed when, for example, somebody reaches the next level in a game. The other channel is a specific notification system that games can send to users. This is still more than Facebook offers. On the other hand, we do not have wall posts. We believe that activities and notifications are sufficient viral drivers.
SGO: You mentioned that you recently changed your offer wall?
Netlog: Yes, we have three ways to use our offerwall: you can get free credits, buy credits and spend credits. We are working together with Sponsorpay but we have direct offers as well. Additionally, we have an own browser and if you download it you get 20 credits, every time you use the browser to log in to Netlog you get 1 credit and you also get credits for inviting friends. You can spend the credits on social games or on features like promoting your pictures.