Los Angeles Games Conference - Interview with Alex St. John, President & CTO of hi5
This is another article in a series of interviews I conducted with panelists and attendees of the 2011 Los Angeles Games Conference, held at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills on April 25th and 26th.
I had the chance to speak with Alex St. John, the President and Chief Technology Officer for hi5. For those not familiar with hi5, their site describes them as:
Founded in 2003, hi5 is among the top 10 largest online gaming web sites worldwide and the leading platform focused on social play. hi5 delivers a fun, interactive entertainment experience to millions of visitors worldwide by combining a robust social platform with premium content, including localized social games, virtual goods, avatars and more. The hi5 Game Developer Program enables talented social game developers to drive audience acquisition and monetization of their games on the hi5 platform through free promotion, access to viral channels, a robust commerce platform and favorable revenue shares. hi5 is available in over 50 languages, and supports over 60 payment methods and 30 currencies worldwide. hi5 is a privately-held company, headquartered in San Francisco, California.
St. John was on a panel at the LA Games Conference, where the merits of Facebook as a Social Gaming site were debated. You can read more about that event, here. St. John was on the side against that position though his real-life position isn't as cut and dry.
hi5 has over 100 externalized versions of Facebook games deployed and has over 400 in the queue. "Facebook will make money. And it will be a mediocre gaming destination," he said. "We have the opportunity to learn from Facebook's mistakes."
One mistake they've made, in his opinion, is the Facebook Credit System. Facebook Credits are a way to purchase premium items for games and add-ons for Facebook. Companies like Zynga had been handling these transactions within their own programs, limiting Facebook's ability to participate in almost a billion dollars in 2010 for Zynga, alone. In that same year, Facebook and Zynga agreed to use Facebook Credits in Zynga games.Continued on the next page