Chris DeWolfe partners with Humane Society of the U.S. on new game
Is Chris DeWolfe donning sheep's clothing? The former chief executive of MySpace has partnered with the Humane Society of the United States to produce a game whose proceeds would partially benefit the nonprofit's animal rescue efforts.
DeWolfe's Los Angeles company, MindJolt SGN, on Tuesday announced a title for iPhones and iPads called Fluff Friends Rescue in which players can build virtual playpens for homeless cats and dogs. The company plans to launch versions of the game for Android devices and social networks later this year.
It's a free game, but players can opt to purchase virtual goods, such as pet toys or additional space to accommodate more animals. MindJolt promises to donate 100% of the sale of items that carry the Humane Society branding to the Washington, D.C., nonprofit.
Pairing up social games with nonprofit causes isn't a new idea. Zynga Inc., a social gaming company based in San Francisco, has donated $10 million over the years from the sale of virtual items in several of its games to various organizations, including Save the Children, Habitat for Humanity and FATEM. Playfish, owned by Electronic Arts Inc., has also raised money for Mercy Corps and other charities via its social games.
This seems an unlikely path for DeWolfe, 46, who is best known as one of the co-founders of MySpace and who helped broker its sale to News Corp. in 2005 for $580 million. When he left the social network in March 2009, MySpace still had more traffic than Facebook.
But DeWolfe, who sports a roguish sweep of sandy blonde hair, said that social games remind him of the early days of digital music, when MySpace Music rocked the industry by giving small bands the ability to bypass major labels and market to millions of users on the social network.
"I felt that there were a lot of similarities between music and what was going on in the game space," he said in an interview. "Bands used to need major labels to finance their recordings. Now they can do everything on their own with cheap software and distribute them from their garages. The same is true with games."
Last year DeWolfe teamed up with former MySpace executives Colin Digiaro, Aber Whitcomb and Joshua Yguado to found Platform G, a holding company that bought MindJolt, a developer of Facebook games, in March. They followed up in April with two more acquisitions -- Social Gaming Network and Hallpass Media. Terms of the deals were not disclosed.
The company, which has 80 employees and is partially funded by Austin Ventures, publishes several hundred titles across Facebook as well as mobile phones and tablets that use Apple Inc.'s iOS and Google Inc.'s Android operating systems. Some of its top sellers include Skies of Glory, Bird Is the Word and Night of the Living Dead.
DeWolfe would not disclose the annual revenue of his privately held company, but says that it's profitable thanks to the 35 million people who actively play its games each month.
"We think Fluff Friends Rescue has the potential to hit the top 10 or top 20 games and stay there for a long time," DeWolfe said, "because the game play mirrors things people enjoy doing in real life like rescuing and raising animals."
-- Alex Pham
Photo: Chris DeWolfe. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press
Screenshot of Fluff Friends Rescue courtesy of MindJolt and Social Gaming Network.