How does Mahjong help me understand the Iowa caucuses?

Games are on cnn.comCNN is not the first place one thinks of when seeking out a popular browser-based game, yet a new cluster of game links have invaded the index page of cnn.com. CNN has joined the ranks of many popular mainstream websites and is now offering time-consuming, mind-absorbing, free, browser-based games. CNN has dedicated a whole page for its readers to take breaks from news-reading and dive in to such titles as Mahjong Dimensions, Monkey Gem and Pegland. Like Facebook and Google (Google +,) players can register, log their scores and participate in a game playing community. Will this be a successful move for cnn.com? Is this a good use of bandwidth for the news giant?

A huge chunk of the cyber world has always revolved around free game playing. Even before browsers came along, Dungeons and Dragons aficionados trolled the telnet realms and played together via text (see MUDs.) With each new plug-in (like Flash, Java, etc.,) developers and web site creators have found ways to top the last generation of games; a good example being the hugely popular Google Pacman that blasted away many work hours. It was built using the latest HTML, and brought the world a high quality version of the game with a small download time.

Until recently, games were contained to their own sector of the web, and giant game publishing sites like pogo, miniclip, and addictinggames soared. Game publishing sites have always been simple to start because developers are eager to spread their products throughout the World Wide Web. Sites like buzzpath, and jayisgames are examples of how webmasters can throw together a collection of other developers’ games and promote them. As technology increases, it becomes easier to create multi-player communities. It wasn’t a far stretch for Facebook to place games into its product mix, and now the question is: will it work for CNN?

How does the addition of a games page to cnn.com affect the overall branding of CNN? In the past, sites like cnn.com have used video games as marketing tools, designed to communicate marketing messages their audiences. For example, CNN has used news quizzes on its site to test readers on information that can be acquired in their articles. This use of a game bolsters the existing product and heightens the overall user experience. With the additiong of the new games page, how will a quick game of Mahjong help one understand the results of the Iowa caucuses?

The move to place games on a news site may just be part of a larger media strategy. CNN is owned by Turner Broadcasting which is owned by Time Warner. Ultimately, all websites managed by these empires serve as marketing channels. The implementation of diversified website entertainment is most likely part of a larger strategy to keep users surfing through the Time Warner network of websites and its partners.

The CNN games page can be accessed by clicking here.

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