CNN Games: When social games fever hits the virtual newstands

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Arkadium Stop the Presses on CNN Games
CNN has opened a spankin' new games portal on their site, named simply, "CNN Games" and powered by social games stalwart, Arkadium. Aside from having to put up with a 15-second ad before each game loads, all twenty-five of Arkadium's games are free, including established favorites such as Mahjongg Dimensions. You don't have to sign up as a CNN member to play (plus, Facebook Connect doesn't seem far behind), but CNN would like it if you did. Doing so allows you to "save your scores, get on the Leaderboard and challenge your friends".

We really shouldn't be surprised, but it's hard not to be. Certainly, there's been a trend where companies have been slapping games onto everything from banks to blogs. Some have even made it their core business to slap games onto other businesses. There's this belief that turning something into a social game will make it more popular. MySpace attempted a failed resurrection by investing in games. Social games killed the daytime soap, only for the soaps to attempt a comeback as games. Social games for social good are the watchwords of organizations such as Games4Change, and businesses such as GamesThatGive. But for an international news organization to invest in a generic, casual games portal is just mind-boggling. With the exception of Stop the Presses, a timed word game, nothing at CNN Games has anything to do with the news or the CNN brand (fancy a board game, anyone?).
CNN Games Arkadium
However, consider this -- it was the rivalry between Joseph Pulitzer's New York World and William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal in the 1890s that brought us the modern-day, newspaper comic strip. In 1895, Pulitzer had convinced comics creator Richard Felton Outcault to publish "The Yellow Kid" for his newspaper. But Hearst saw the value in it and snatched Outcault away for his paper. Suddenly, the funnies became serious business as both owners believed that comics were their ticket to more readers. It sounds absurd, but those of us who grew up on newsprint remember the value of the funnies.

As major news producers move from print to the web, they're going to need new ways to compete online. I wonder if social games are going to be for news sites, the way comic strips were for newspapers.

Do you think social games can hit it big on news sites or that news sites can win readers by adding games, social or otherwise? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment
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