Hi5, a former up-and-coming social network that shifted focus last year and is now trying to become a social-gaming hub, today launched a portal for game developers, and President and CTO Alex St. John says the company is prepared to take on Facebook in a head-to-head battle for the gaming space. St. John, the former CEO of gaming site WildTangent, told TechFlash that Facebook accidentally discovered “a fantastic gaming opportunity” but has since neglected it to death. St. John also described most of Facebook’s popular social games as “parasitic spam engines” and said he believes Hi5 can show the social network how to do online social gaming properly:
Clearly [Facebook] discovered a new kind of game platform, that’s hugely popular, and they’re going to squander it. That’s hard for me to see, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to go, look, let me show you guys how to do gaming in this environment correctly. It’s great that you paved the way and discovered it, but it’s clear that you’re not really going to focus on being very good at being a gaming platform, and I know how to do that.
Founded in 2003, Hi5 was one of half-a-dozen up-and-coming social networks at the time. Like so many others, it got left in the dust by Facebook, which just crossed over the half-a-billion-user mark and is estimated to be closing in on $1 billion in revenue. Last year, Hi5 decided to focus on gaming and hired St. John, who in addition to being the former co-founder of WildTangent was also one of the developers of the original DirectX gaming standard at Microsoft. Hi5 also recently raised $14 million in financing from Crosslink Capital and Mohr Davidow Ventures.
In keeping with his gaming background, St. John clearly has a sense of humor: As part of the publicity surrounding the company’s launch of its developer portal and the Casual Connect conference in Seattle, where he was speaking, St. John — who is a very large man — staged a sumo-wrestling match between himself and a large wrestler meant to represent Facebook. Video of the stunt is embedded below:
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