RealNetworks Releases GameHouse Platform for Social Game Development

Developers gain access to a couple new choices for creating and distributing their games this morning, with the open launch of GameHouse, a service owned by RealNetworks. The company is releasing a new platform called Fusion that seeks to tie together a variety of development tools, as well as a Facebook game portal app under the GameHouse brand.

RealNetworks is best known as the purveyor of RealPlayer, a media player that was ultimately eclipsed by other companies. But the Seattle-based company is actually quite large; GameHouse is a brand that it has owned for about six years. It’s not the best-known name, but GameHouse claims to have about 50 million users worldwide, partially through licensing its games out to companies like AOL and Comcast.

Fusion, the new development platform, is the core of the release, according to VP of product Craig Robinson and chief revenue officer Matt Hulett, who we spoke with about the announcement. “We’ve been raiding the Seattle engineering team from MySpace, secretly building this platform for a year,” Hulett told us.

The core of Fusion is giving developers the ability to easily port their games across the mobile, social and download markets, while letting the team at GameHouse handle the plumbing. Some of Fusion’s tools include easy access to social APIs, pre-built leaderboards and awards, metrics and analysis, monetization services and hosting with managed traffic scaling.

“My guess is probably Zynga and Playfish and Playdom probably won’t use the platform, but there are large companies we’re talking to today,” said Hulett. “A developer looking for all our services today would have to work with three or four separate companies.” GameHouse has already netted several clients for Fusion, including its Seattle neighbor PopCap Games.

The proof of GameHouse’s expertise will be its Facebook app of the same name. Built as a portal similar to MindJolt Games, GameHouse will welcome in outside developers and integrate their games into a larger social mechanic with features like awards and challenges to friends.

Challenges aren’t an entirely new idea, but GameHouse does have some interesting ideas on how to integrate them. Players will be able to pick a specific game, a length of time for which the challenge will be valid, and either make the challenge open to just friends or everyone. While the challenges created will depend on the game in question and the player’s creativity, the rewards will come from a catalog provided by GameHouse, including “premium” awards paid for with virtual currency.

Of course, GameHouse on Facebook will have to pull in a significant number of players to prove the company’s concept and succeed in the growing field of service platforms, but the rewards for doing so could be significant. If you’re at the Web 2.0 Expo today in San Francisco, you can also stop in for an 11:45am presentation of GameHouse and Fusion on the theater show floor.