Thanks to the fast-growing female web demographic, celebrity and entertainment sites have become a dime a dozen. Hollywood Interactive Group Inc., a company that produces online interactive content based on Hollywood’s current events, has received a $5 million first round of funding in an effort to stand apart from the crowd. Led by BlueRun Ventures of Menlo Park, the funding is earmarked for the development of a multi-platform approach to the creation and promotion of interactive content projects, the first of which is MyHollywood.com.
This initial online destination site features celebrity, entertainment and fashion news, along with casual games, and targets women between the ages of 18 and 34. The “Red Carpet Game” is the highlight of the site so far. This massive multiplayer online game (MMOG) is an integrated experience for game players, that includes a series of entertainment-themed mini games that allow users to work their way into virtual stardom. You create your own avatar that you can accessorize with various advertiser-branded virtual goods. Quizzes about recent blog headlines and other celebrity news items are incorporated into the game — answer correctly to achieve a recognized status versus other game players. Through winning MyHollywood’s games, you can gain access to restricted “VIP” areas.
Hopefully some of Hollywood Interactive’s funding will go towards more tangible prizes for game leaders, as well. It’s sometimes considered a poor move to use venture funding to directly reward users. But, I think that offering physical prizes as well as virtual goods has the potential to give a desired increase in engagement between brands and MyHollywood gamers and could work well for such an entertainment-centric site.
Unfortunately, MyHollywood’s particular implementation leaves something to be desired as far as the user’s game experience goes. I tried the site on Firefox 3, Safari and Internet Explorer 7 browsers, and I’m having trouble even logging in.
In any case, the pairing of interactive features like games alongside ads is a large trend. Retailers, especially those in the U.S., are moving to the web for advertising and sales purposes, and games provide a more unique and direct manner of reaching potential customers. Others that have taken an interactive approach to gaming and entertainment include CelebSpleak and various Facebook applications that have taken on gifting for branding purposes.