Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, seems to have fallen for investing in hot new web properties. The latest one: Social Gaming Network (SGN), a top developer of gaming applications on Facebook and other social networks.
Bezos, who invests through a fund he has set up called Bezos Expeditions, also recently put money into messaging service Twitter, music slideshow creator Animoto, user-created game site Kongregate and location-based mobile application Whrrl (made by Pelago).
SGN competes most directly with Zynga in the realm of social network gaming. Both companies trail Slide and RockYou as leading third-party application developers. The latter two companies tend to build relatively simple applications. SGN builds more complex ones, such as the strategy game Warbook. Other titles include Free Gifts, Jetman, FightClub and StreetRace.
All four companies have seen a drop in the number of total application installs and daily active users in the last couple of months, as you’ll note from the table above showing the latest stats, versus the table from mid-May, below.
It’s hard to tell exactly why such an across-the-board drop happened, but certainly usage has been hurt by Facebook’s efforts to cut down on automated emails from applications, notifications about applications that users receive within the site, and other anti-spam moves that contributed to viral growth. Of course, the drop in installs implies that users themselves are taking care of such problems without Facebook’s intervention.
Today, SGN claims 1.1 million daily active users, and only around 720,000 of them are on Facebook, according to Adonomics (the source of the two tables). This means 380,000 daily active users are on MySpace, hi5 and Bebo — competing social networks that have more recently launched developer platforms for applications. Considering MySpace and hi5 only launched platforms this past spring, SGN’s growth is certainly promising, as it could mean they have more room to grow on these sites.
Meanwhile, SGN is working to monetize its games by selling advertising and letting users buy virtual goods within its games.
The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company announced the undisclosed amount of funding from Bezos separately from previous $15 million round it announced in May, although it’s not clear if Bezos invested as part of that round. (I took a deeper dive into what the company is up to at that time, follow the previous link for more details).
It’s also worth noting that the other Bezos fundings I mentioned up top have all happened within the last few months. The most prominent previous Bezos investment that I’m aware of was in 37signals last year. 37signals offers web-based productivity software and makes money on subscription services. One of its engineers developed the programming language Ruby on Rails used by Twitter and many other web companies. Given that the other companies mentioned all have minimal revenue streams (at least as far as I know), the 37signals investment looks conservative by comparison.
[Update: Other Bezos investments, for those who are interested in such a list, include virtual world Second Life (as noted in comments), recently purchased semantic search engine Powerset, mobile search company ChaCha, and local teacher site TeachStreet.]