Tagged Begins Transformation Of Social Gaming Network hi5

Tagged first announced its acquisition of struggling social network hi5 in December. Now, the company says it’s ready to talk about what’s going to happen to the property.

Basically, Tagged will continue operating hi5 as a separate site, but one that starts to look more and more like Tagged — as vice president of sales and marketing Steve Sarner put it, it will become “a Tagged.com experience with a hi5 wrapper.” Even though Sarner says hi5 won’t actually change for another six to eight weeks, hi5 users should start getting emails later today notifying them about the plans.

The biggest change will be to hi5’s gaming platform, which has been the company’s focus in recent years. Tagged will be “sunsetting” the platform for third-party game developers, and replacing it with games developed in-house by Tagged itself. Sarner says hi5’s third-party platform “wasn’t nearly as vibrant as we felt it could be or should be,” and that Tagged has been seeing better results from its own games.

More generally, Sarner says the goal was to move hi5 toward Tagged’s “proven” model, which emphasizes social discovery (i.e., meeting new people, rather than just connecting with existing friends) and makes money primarily through virtual currency. After all, Tagged is has been profitable for four years straight (although competitor Badoo disputes the company’s claim to social discovery dominance). hi5 users can also expect to see fewer ads, and they’ll be able to search for and play games with Tagged users.

But if the sites are becoming so similar and connected, why keep them separate?

“We think that in the short- and mid-term, running two separate brands makes sense,” Sarner says. “We don’t want to completely alienate the current userbase. In the long-term, there’s certainly an opportunity for merging the brands.”