Netlog launches Gatcha!, a cross-network social game distribution platform

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I’m currently blogging from a boat, rented by Belgian social network operator Netlog to host about a hundred of their closest business partners for a presentation about their freshly redesigned website and a roadmap of what’s in store for the future.

In their presentation, co-founders Toon Coppens and Lorenz Bogaert introduced something other than the newly revamped site. The company has also been developing a separately branded social gaming platform called Gatcha! which was talked about publicly for the first time today.

The website will likely be hosted on gatcha.com, since the domain name is registered under the name of Bogaert, but so far the only thing you’ll see there is placeholder text.

From the press release:

With an average of 2 million game plays per day on Netlog, gaming is one of the fastest growing applications. The website currently offers a wide variety of games, from computerized board games, remakes of arcade classics to full blown multiplayer titles.

By launching Gatcha!, the company clearly stresses the social role of gaming in bringing people together. Gatcha! has been developed to build on something new: it is a distribution platform which aims to make games social, distribute them on the web, and entertain and bring people together through a new way of communicating. Gatcha! will thus not only be present on Netlog, but can and will also be perfectly integrated on other platforms (Facebook, MySpace, HI5, etc…).

Gatcha! will be a large MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) game with global rankings and levels and will also include 3rd party games (including branded games). The principle is that you can win from someone in one game, lose in another, and in this way reach a balanced ranking.

That all sounds very nice, but of course we’ll have to wait until Gatcha! goes live – a due date was not yet given – to see how it stacks up. Of course, social gaming is big and growing, so it makes sense for Netlog to enter this arena.

With an audience of over 56 million unique visitors per month, they already have a large distribution platform of their own, so the cross-platform part of the announcement is intriguing, if not a bit strange.

I’ll update this post as soon as I learn more about the new offering.

Update: so the plan is to roll out the new service on Netlog only by the end of this year and then move to other networks like Facebook, MySpace and hi5 in a later stage.

Netlog already has deals in place with game developers like Playfish and Sakari Games, and is talking to a bunch more.

The idea is to provide these developers with a cross-language platform they can use to make games people can play regardless of which social network or device they’re using, and keep a centralized performance ranking, scores, etc., effectively enabling gamers to break out of the walled garden that’s still troubling a lot of social games from growing faster.

Netlog aims to make money from Gatcha! by setting up revenue sharing agreements with game developers and handling in-game microtransactions across the various platforms it will run them on.

The company acknowledged that the whole thing is still in a rudimentary state, but that they’ll be providing more details when they can effectively show it off, which should be in the near future.

Stay tuned.

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