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Mark Evans

Startup marries giving with game-playing Add to ...

The Internet has made it easier than ever for charities to solicit donations, but it still involves the basic premise of asking people for money.

Serial entrepreneur Greg Sukornyk looked at the activities of charities online and the growing popularity of online gaming, and figured there was an opportunity to marry them in a way that could benefit charities while still entertaining game players.

That led to the creation a year ago of Good World Games, which is developing social games that provide charities with a new way to raise money that is fun and educational.

The startup, which has offices in Toronto and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., recently launched its first game called My Conservation Park, in which players sustain their own virtual wildlife preserve for endangered animals.

To complete activities, players have to purchase things such as plants, species and watchtowers. For each dollar spent, 15 per cent is donated to non-profit organizations affiliated with each game.

Mr. Sukornyk, who has been developing and building startups for the past 15 years, said Good World Games is looking to capitalize on its ability to seamlessly integrate online charities and game playing

“We were very intrigued by how we could raise awareness for causes in the virtual world. The marriage of giving and games is what we are about,” he said in a recent interview.

“All of our games going forward will have a socially conscious, planet-friendly face to them, and still be fun. Whereas a lot of educational gaming experiences over the years haven’t been super-successful because they think education-only is the centre of it or education comes first, we think games have to be fun, too.”

In launching My Conversation Park, Good World Games had five non-profit partners already on board – the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, Orangutan Outreach, United Conservationists, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and WildAid

Mr. Sukornyk said the plan going forward is to create new parks related to different non-profit organizations. Good World Games develops the games while its non-profit partners provide content, such as videos, photos and educational material.

“We promote the non-profits in the games, and they promote us to their supporters,” he said. “It is a nice relationship where they are reaching out to raise awareness of our games to their million of supporters. It is a unique angle in social gaming that we landed upon.”

Since the first game was launched a couple of months ago, Mr. Sukornyk said more than 10,000 people have played, while the non-profits involved have been enthusiastic about the concept and business model.

“We are really happy with the overall reception,” he said.

“We are always enhancing the games, and we have a couple of cools things coming in the next week or two. We have partners lined up for [the first quarter]of 2012. They have been coming to us because this is a new-found revenue stream for them and an opportunity to leverage social media and social gaming in a compelling way.”

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is the principal with ME Consulting, a communications and marketing strategic consultancy that works with startups and fast-growing companies to create compelling and effective messaging to drive their sales and marketing activities. Mark has worked with four startups – Blanketware, b5Media, PlanetEye and Sysomos. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshmarketing and meshwest conferences.

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