We just noticed that Ibibo, until recently a “social network” has re-positioned itself as a gaming network: the Naspers and TenCent owned company appears to have made a mid-course correction. It has been focusing on gaming for quite some time now, but where gaming was previously just one of its offerings, it now appears to be the most of the menu, given preference over other products; other offerings including the social network part, mail, sawaal and SMS communities have taken a backseat and have been relegated to footer links on the homepage.

Why the change in positioning & content strategy?

This repositioning might also have to do with the fact that during the last two years, social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook in particular, have achieved tremendous growth in terms of users and have become much more relevant to advertisers as social platforms. We’ve seen other potential social networks make changes – BigAdda tried becoming an e-commerce venture, and MingleBox became an educational site. In case of ibibo, it is perhaps that after spending many years and – we assume – a lot of money trying several different services (remember the blogger hunts and the talent hunts?) to find something that works, social gaming has emerged as a winner; either that or TenCent is pushing for this strategy, given its own success in China.

Ibibo’s offerings have never really been significantly differentiated: In terms of social networks, Google’s Orkut and Facebook have dominated. E-mail, again was irrelevant, with Google and Yahoo commanding the lion’s share in India. Sawaal, the Q&A platform, was also nothing new, with Rediff and Yahoo also offering similar services. It doesn’t help that, for revenue from these services, it relied primarily on advertising and sponsorship.

The focus on gaming  and microtransactions gives Ibibo a more direct path to monetization, and is in line with its other businesses – ecommerce site tradus.in, classifieds site tradusads.in and online travel site goibibo.

Competition or Collaboration?

With this repositioning, Ibibo would directly compete with Reliance ADAG’s Zapak.com, IndiaGames (which will now be owned by Disney), Games2Win and Hungama. Interestingly, Ibibo is also offering Zapak Plus, Zapak’s  subscription based offline gaming service on its own site, so it appears that it is taking a platform approach.

During the last year, Ibibo had launched its game developer platform, ibibo Open, for developers to make social and multiplayer games on ibibo targeting Indian audiences. The company  had said that it intended to aggressively promote the platform to local and international game developers to develop, publish, and monetize their games on its platform. It had bought on board international developers such as Game Ventures, Singapore , Kingnet, China ;  Perfect World Studios, China and Plinga, Germany and had announced that more international game development companies had signed up. It had also announced performance based incentives monetization options, and promotional offers for game developers. Ibibio had also launched desktop and mobile games.