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Volume 20 No. 42
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Game maker rebrands with baseball expansion

San Francisco-based online video game developer World Golf Tour has rebranded itself as WGT after an expansion from golf into baseball, and plans to launch games in other sports later this year.

The moves represent a marked expansion for the 6-year-old company, which has sought to forge a niche in games with highly photo-realistic digital representations of real-world settings. WGT has struck partnership agreements with MLB Advanced Media and the MLB Players Association to create “WGT Baseball: MLB,” a socially oriented game on Facebook featuring MLB teams, ballparks and players.

The new baseball entry, which launched earlier this year in a beta phase, has quickly gained more than 200,000 monthly

users during an initial beta phase with no marketing, adding to the more than 5 million existing users of WGT’s golf games.

“We always wanted to do more than golf and have a full portfolio of games in various sports,” said YuChiang Cheng, WGT co-founder and chief executive. “The golf initially took for us, and we’re now looking to have the same kind of trajectory in baseball and other sports.”

“WGT Baseball: MLB” will be free to users, with the revenue

“WGT Baseball: MLB” is a socially oriented game on Facebook that features MLB teams, ballparks and players. The game has gained 200,000 monthly users during its initial beta phase.
model based on advertising and virtual goods in which users can supplement the free play with additional amenities. Unlike console-based baseball video games, the browser-based title is not based primarily on timing and animations, but rather is a strategy-based game sharing some similarities with the classic Strat-O-Matic Baseball.

Financial terms of WGT’s contracts with MLBAM and the MLBPA were not disclosed, but WGT’s MLBAM deal involves both a front-end licensing component and revenue-sharing provisions.

Cheng declined to outline plans for the additional games planned for 2012, but said the company’s development staff has recently been increased to handle the expanded focus. WGT employs about 40 people, the largest it has been in company history.

The shift to the WGT branding occurred internally with no use of an external branding or marketing agency.

“It was very much a natural thing,” Cheng said. “People were constantly referring to us by the acronym anyway, so once we formally ventured beyond golf, it was the logical step.”

In June, WGT will again revive the Virtual U.S. Open Championship, its online video golf tournament held in conjunction with the real-world U.S. Open, played on the same course as the real event. The tournament, an outgrowth of a long-term partnership between WGT and the U.S. Golf Association, will enter its fourth iteration this year with The Olympic Club in San Francisco.