The prospect of founding a successful generic social network these days might be bleak given the dominance of players like MySpace and Facebook. However, there’s still plenty of room for niche social networks to rise and generate lots of participation.
UGAME, which enters closed private beta this week, wants eventually to be the leading social network for gamers. The site will start off as a place where competitive PC gamers in particular can socialize, share their gaming feats, and organize themselves into teams and other associations. While UGAME will initially cater to the World of Warcraft, Counterstrike, and Quake obsessive, its motto points to a more ambitious future with “All Games. All Platforms. All People.”
A key to starting a successful niche social network probably lies in the creators’ ability to balance familiar features with ones that capitalize on the niche’s unique qualities. If this is true then the team behind UGAME is off to a good start. They’ve built in lots of functionality that will be immediately familiar: news feeds, profiles, friends, blogs, photo galleries, status updates, etc.
But they’ve also added gaming twists to these features and built out new features that don’t exist elsewhere. To name a few: members can post their gaming achievements from both tournament and non-tournament events; they can list their favorite games and computer hardware specs; and they can join teams that are allotted their own public-facing profiles.
UGAME grants users an unusual amount of control over privacy settings. While all sections of the site are accessible to non-registered users, only elements designated as “public” will show up to everyone. Privately designated elements such as photo galleries and profiles will remain accessible only to friends and other permitted users. Founder Sam Mathews describes UGAME in regards to privacy settings as a cross between Facebook and MySpace.
If the premise behind UGAME sounds familiar, you’ve probably heard of Shawn Fanning’s social networking project Rupture, which has been in closed beta for over a year. Or it may remind you of WeGame, a YouTube for gaming videos that we wrote about last month (and which shares a startlingly similar name and color scheme).
UGAME will open its private beta in a few weeks; you can email this address with a mention of your favorite game to put yourself down on a preferred TC readers list for when that happens.