To become even more of a destination for casual gamers, AOL overhauled its portal Games.com with new personalization and discovery features today. They also made it cross-platform, with certain titles becoming playable on tablets and mobile phones.
“We saw a lot of growth and movement in the gaming space over the past year,” said Games.com’s general manager John Fox. “We have distribution and we have a great domain, and if you put those together, we can create a rich community and an experience that flows across all screens.”
He says that Games.com sees between 2.5 million and 3 million unique views every month in the U.S. That’s not huge, considering that many of Zynga’s games individually see that many players every day on Facebook, but it’s not an insignificant amount for mid-size or small developers.
Indeed, AOL has signed up some of the better known mid-size gaming companies as partners like Big Fish Games and Arkadium. Fox says other partners are coming soon. In total, there are 5,000 free online games that come with the site, along with several mobile titles, too.
In the re-design, Games.com gets a social bar on the right-hand side that shows recently played games, recommendations and favorite titles. On the bottom right-hand corner, there’s a leaderboard where players can get easy access to badges, points, rankings and their gaming history. Players can jump into games with a single-click or opt for full-screen gameplay.
Games.com also becomes cross-platform with this retooling. Gamers can play HTML5-based titles from phones or tablets. Even though Facebook tried and then abandoned an HTML5-centric strategy for third-party games, Fox says AOL is still making an investment in this direction with partnerships with several HTML5 developers.
AOL isn’t the only gaming company to pursue a web destination strategy. Zynga has also been moving off Facebook with its own portal, and then there are plenty of independent, venture-backed companies that have had standalone and profitable gaming destinations for a very long time like Sweden’s King.com and Seattle’s Big Fish Games.