Move over Farmville, here comes Yoo-Mee

Alexandra Brell

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Much of life takes place in a virtual world: communication, shopping, education, activism and entertainment. However, Yoo-Mee takes social, online activity to a different level.

Yoo-Mee is a new gaming platform from Hooked Media Group in San Francisco. Yoo-Mee, which launched Feb.1, engages players in casual online games, as they compete one-on-one or in tournaments.

Social gamers are a new breed and the exact demographic for Yoo-Mee, says Daniel Heinrich, a marketing and business development intern at Hooked Media. Social gamers are more casual game-users verses hardcore gamers who play Xbox and similar systems, he said.

Heinrich, who attends UC Berkeley, says there are 100 million social gamers in the US and UK alone and there is about 200 million worldwide.

“Surprisingly enough it’s (Yoo-Mee) a really big hit in Saudi Arabia,” Heinrich said. “We don’t know why.”

Yoo-Mee comes on the wave of popular casual gaming like Facebook applications Farmville and Mafia Wars. Zynga is the company responsible for these games and is Hooked Media’s biggest competitor.

The largest difference between Hooked Media’s Yoo-Mee and the Zynga applications is the component of interactive wagering, making it a social experience as opposed to single player games.

The winner is determined by the amount of currency a player accumulates. “Gold” is virtual currency purchased online with a credit card by the user; one gold is equivalent to one dollar.

While the games are fun and addicting, accumulating the minimum $10 required to collect winnings, however, might take some dedication. Tournaments often have an “entry fee” of a dollar  and the average pot for tournaments is only $1.50 according to Heinrich.

A transaction fee of four percent is charged when purchasing new tokens in addition to an eight percent fee when a player cashes out winnings. These fees help the spending of real money, virtually, add up quickly.

Michael Newman, owner of Pomp Productions, a multimedia design and development company based in Sherman Oaks, sees potential with this type of gaming model.

“I believe the virtual goods arena has tremendous potential for companies, developers and users,” Newman said.

“Once a major player, such as Facebook, releases a micropayment model that can be used across games, similar to Yoo-Mee, regardless of developer or publisher, revenue for everyone will skyrocket,” he said.

Feedback to the new gaming platform has been positive according to the postings on Yoo-Mee’s Facebook wall. A user went as far to call it the “best application on Facebook.”

Yoo-Mee also uses Facebook to facilitate open communication between the company and the players.

“We always reply back,” Heinrich said, referring to players who post their questions or technical difficulties with the application on Yoo-Mee’s wall. “We maintain a really good communication base with our user base and as a result we’ve seen a lot of loyalty,” he said.

Heinrich says Hooked Media will launch a mobile Yoo-Mee application on smart phones, potentially by this spring. Users will be able to play in communities, make wagers and participate as they would on a computer using a mobile phone. Yoo-Mee will soon be available anywhere “yoo” are.

To play Yoo-Mee log on to Facebook at www.facebook.com/yoo-meegames