SOURCE: hi5

hi5

October 14, 2009 09:03 ET

hi5 Launches New Social Entertainment User Interface Featuring hi5 Stars™ 3D Avatars

New 3D Engine Serves as the Basis for New Revenue Streams and a More Game-Like User Experience

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwire - October 14, 2009) - Global social entertainment site, hi5, today unveiled an entirely re-designed user interface, focused on games, virtual goods, direct user payments and high-fidelity interactivity. Featuring a streamlined, high-energy look, the new hi5 is the first major social site to introduce animated, 3-dimensional avatars, called hi5 Stars™, on every user's profile page -- providing a compelling medium for interactivity and self-expression.

The new hi5.com is available in public beta at http://new.hi5.com and begins going live globally to hi5's millions of users worldwide this week. Highlights of the new hi5 user experience include:

  • Re-designed, high-fidelity user profile page, featuring hi5 Stars 3D avatars
  • hi5 Stars designer tool for customizing avatars as a fun, supplemental representation of users on the site
  • Simplified top-level navigation, highlighting the hi5 Games channel and hi5 Coins virtual currency, with mouse-over secondary navigation to other popular pages
  • New corporate identity, emphasizing hi5's social entertainment value proposition around gaming, friends, and fun.

"hi5 Stars provide a new level of self-expression and interactivity to the hi5 user experience," said Andrew Sheppard, executive producer, hi5. "We designed our avatars to be an integral part of the hi5 user's online experience and a natural extension of their real-world persona -- complete with moods, motions, and status updates. Stars serve as the basis for extending game-like mechanics into the online social experience."

With the launch of Stars, hi5 is pioneering a new level of fidelity for social sites. The customizable, fully-animated characters are powered by a breakthrough 3D rendering engine, developed by hi5. This framework is built on top of the Adobe® Flash® Player from Adobe Systems, which enables engaging, interactive animations directly in a web browser with no additional download or plug-in required. hi5's 3D engine will form the basis for future development of even more immersive animated features on the site.

"hi5 Stars are a compelling example of an interactive, 3D user experience that is delivered entirely within a standard Web browser running Adobe Flash Player 10, with no additional download," said Tom Barclay, senior product marketing manager for Flash Player at Adobe. "The 3D engine hi5 has built to run on Flash Player is a great example of the type of next-generation, immersive online experiences that the Adobe Flash Platform enables across the Web."

In addition to forming a foundation for a more interactive and immersive user experience, hi5 Stars represent a new monetization opportunity for hi5. In Q4, hi5 will extend the current virtual goods store on the site to include premium merchandise for hi5 Stars. Payments will be made using hi5 Coins, the site-wide virtual currency. Avatar merchandise also presents a new promotional opportunity for hi5's advertising partners.

"Our new user experience featuring hi5 Stars further delivers on our distinct social entertainment value proposition," said Bill Gossman, CEO, hi5. "In addition to games and virtual gifts, avatars are a third key pillar in our strategy of driving revenue from direct user payments. Micro-transactions using our virtual currency, hi5 Coins, already account for over 15 percent of our overall revenue, and we expect premium items for hi5 Stars to further spur that growth."

The new hi5.com site has been in private beta since August. Adoption and enthusiasm around the look of the new site, and hi5 Stars in particularly, has been significant during the beta program. Average page views per session in the new version is nearly double previous levels, and average minutes per session has also increased. The new site began deploying worldwide this week.

About Adobe Flash Platform

The Adobe Flash Platform is the leading Web design and development platform for creating expressive applications, content, and video that run consistently across operating systems and devices and reach over 98 percent of Internet-enabled desktops. Flash Player 10 was installed on more than 93 percent of computers in just the first ten months since its release. For more information about the Adobe Flash Platform visit http://www.adobe.com/flashplatform/.

About hi5

Founded in 2003, hi5 today is among the top 20 largest web sites in the world and the leading destination site focused on social gaming and entertainment. Combining a robust social platform with premium content and game mechanics, hi5 delivers a fun, expressive, and interactive entertainment experience to millions of users around the world. Available in over 50 languages, the site features localized games, virtual goods and other content that is monetized through hi5 Coins, a global virtual currency supporting over 60 payment methods and 30 currencies worldwide. For more information on hi5, visit http://www.hi5.com.

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