Social Gaming Meets Dating in CupidsPlay

The dating game has gotten more social with sites such as Zoosk incorporating Facebook-like features. But why not tap into one of the most popular aspects of Facebook — social games — to make dating more fun? That’s the idea of CupidsPlay, a new startup based in Bellevue, Wash. looking to leverage the power of games to bring potential matches together.

The site, which is officially launching Wednesday, is designed to use social games as a bridge to help singles break the ice. It’s an idea that’s still largely untapped, but it makes sense. Social games have a lot of engagement, are very viral and boast a good balance of genders, which is necessary for any dating site.

“If you look at the demographics of social games, it’s 54 percent female, 56 percent single and 74 percent said they’ve met new people in games,” said Founder and CEO Philip Yuen. “It’s really perfect for meeting new people.”

CupidsPlay is launching with about a dozen casual titles, including familiar genres like farming and restaurant-themed games. Users create profiles and identify the kind of people they’re looking for. As they play games, they publish their progress and requests for help, which other potential matches can see. A player can then choose to engage another person or help him or her out by buying them a virtual good.

Yuen said the goal is to enlist social and Flash (s adbe) game makers to build their games atop CupidsPlay, so CupidsPlay is making it easy for Facebook developers to port their games to the site. Developers can also run cross-platform titles on both Facebook and CupidsPlay. The attraction for developers is added distribution and the potential of making more money via sales of virtual goods. Yuen said the site will be free, but users will be able to buy virtual goods to help them progress in games or share as gifts for others. He expects members will not be shy about buying goods to help potential matches level up. CupidsPlay is not taking a cut of the virtual good sales yet though that could change in the future.

Yuen created CupidsPlay last year following three years at Amazon ( s amzn), which bought his mobile payment start-up TextPayMe. CupidsPlay closed half a million in seed funding two weeks ago from Clearstone Venture Partners and Yuen’s old boss, Amazon VP of Product Michael George. Yuen said the company will look to add more games, including more synchronous real-time titles instead of single-player social games as well as a video chat service. He said CupidsPlay will also eventually expand to mobile platforms as well.

The dating world is crowded with a lot of established players getting competition from more social and mobile-minded upstarts. We’re seeing more companies look at group-dating ideas to help bring people together. But with social gaming already a huge hit, it’s not a bad idea to integrate dating into the mix. Yuen said people still struggle to strike up conversations with other singles based on their dating profiles. Building conversations around games can be more fun and casual for gamers.

“When I look at profile and look at eye color and age and then have to think of something witty to say, it’s not very natural or effective,” said Yuen. “But when you want to talk to this girl or guy and they need help in leveling up, you can use that as a catalyst to start conversations.”

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