Friendster gets 'makeover' to cater to Pinoy gamers

By Alexander Villafania

MAKATI CITY, METRO MANILA–Believe or not, Friendster is still alive but is no longer the social networking site that most Filipinos remember.

Once popular, the company has re-engineered itself to become a social gaming portal. However, there is

an underlying business model that the company expects would put it back to prominence.

Currently, majority of Friendster’s content is made up of browser-based Flash games. While similar to online games offered by the likes of Yahoo! or Google Chrome Apps, Friendster has a point system for subscribers who will be able to get rewards for playing.

Most of the rewards are virtual items that can be used to improve a person’s playing performance.

The browser-based gaming offered by Friendster also allows players to buy items using top up cards, much like how online game publishers generate income using top up cards.

In a press briefing, company executives led by Ganesh Kumar Bangah, group chief executive officer of Friendster parent firm MOL Global, said that the top up card would be made available in the Philippines soon.

But more than just offering browser-based Flash games with some basic point system, another business model that Friendster is focusing on is developing an application layer to be offered to companies with their own social media and online game services.

Nikolai Galicia, Friendster’s chief operating officer and a veteran of the game publishing business in the Philippines, noted this particular business model geared towards game publishing firms.

He explained that while it seems they are competing against other online game publishers with their offerings of online games, they are actually aiming to draw publishers to use a community management platform to keep their existing community of gamers and subscribers.

Galicia already hinted that they are already in talks with a few online gaming publishers in the Philippines regarding the use of Friendster’s community management and electronic payment platform.

“We’re not going to take away the community of these gaming companies, instead we aim to help them manage those. One of the most difficult tasks of these companies with a community is to communicate with their customers and we will create that layer for them.”

In addition to traditional online game publishers, Galicia also said their service could also be used by any gaming company from other platforms, such as mobile and console games.

Friendster’s total number of registered users globally is around 100 million, about 40 percent of which are in the Philippines. Of this figure, 10 percent are active.

Still, Friendster’s longevity can be attributed to the financial muscle of its parent firm MOL Global, a Malaysian firm with a huge network of e-payment distribution network across Asia.

One such company that MOL Global owns is Load Central, one of the largest prepaid card distribution services in the Philippines selling call cards for major telecommunications firms, and top up cards for online gaming companies.

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