Pogo.com is a gaming website that offers a variety of free casual games, from card and board games to puzzle, sports, and word games (such as SCRABBLE). The website is free, due to advertising sponsorships. Players can also sign up for Club Pogo, a subscription service that includes premium benefits and does not include advertisements.
Games are played in a browser with the Java-plugin. Games load in a "room" allowing other players to join and chat.
Players can win jackpot prizes and tokens from playing the games on Pogo.com. Tokens can then be exchanged for tickets in daily, weekly, or monthly prize drawings. Players can place bets of tokens on some games, such as Texas hold 'em poker and High Stakes poker. Cash and merchandise prizes are available to U.S. and Canadian residents, excluding Quebec. Players in the UK can win merchandise prizes.
Pogo also offers downloadable games, often "deluxe" or "to go" versions of already-released games, which can be bought and played while offline. Some of these downloadable games include chat and tokens, similar to the original games.
Since 2006, Pogo.com has consistently been a top-10 Internet site for U.S. visitors when measured by time spent online.
Some of Pogo.com's competitors for casual and social gamers include Yahoo! Games, Viacom's Neopets, Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates, IWon.com and TrayGames.
Optigon Interactive launched a beta of the "Total Entertainment Network
" in 1994. The T.E. Network, Inc, which became Pogo.com
was created in 1995 from the merger of two predecessor companies, Optigon Interactive (founded by Daniel Goldman and Janice Linden-Reed) and Outland
(founded by Dave King, Bill Lipa, and Alex Beltramo), in conjunction with investment from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
led by partner Vinod Khosla
. The original grand vision of the company was to become a hip, young version of CompuServe
- a dial-up service for the MTV generation. Optigon had already launched a beta dial-in service along these lines with some simple games but also with other content. Much of the early hiring was therefore focused on editorial staff for content such as comics and music designed to appeal to that demographic and this was reflected in the grandiose name "Total Entertainment Network." The first major strategic change to come from the merger was not the decision to focus on games exclusively or even low latency games but rather the decision to abandon the dial-in model which was so successful for AOL and instead to create an internet-based service available to anyone with a TCP/IP connection. This was a dramatic step to take given that Windows95 was just about to be introduced which would have built-in support for IP as opposed to earlier Microsoft operating systems where you had to get and install your own add-on IP stack and also given that the vast majority of "internet" access at the time was still via AOL.
Total Entertainment Network 1995-1998
T.E. Network's first major service was a newly designed version of the Total Entertainment Network (TEN), which it launched in 1996. While the brand remained the same, the feature set was a subset of Optigon's version of TEN, with the addition of features related to low latency game play. T.E. Network entered additional partnerships with major game developers, and offered gamers a way to play their favorite games with other people across the country. TEN was an immediate success among the hardcore gaming community. The service's initial flagship game was Duke Nukem, and SSI's DarkSun RPG found a solid following on TEN. Ultimately the most popular title would be NASCAR Racing Online, with peak simultaneous usage of about 1700 people.
After the success of Blizzard's free Battle.net service for Diablo and their claim that offering online play as a feature of the game boosted retail sales by 10%, PC game publishers started following Blizzard's lead and offering free online game play and/or building matchmaking functions directly into the game (e.g. Quake II). This undermined the subscription business model of TEN and its strategy to be the exclusive place to play popular PC games online. In addition, TEN's revenue model suffered from the fact that its largest direct competitor Mplayer.com decided to abandon paid subscriptions and moved to a purely ad-supported free play model. With the failure of TEN to reach a critical mass of players, the company needed a new business model and offering to survive.
Pogo.com 1998 – present
The company found success with its second major service: a web offering that would become pogo.com. As Internet advertising was starting to gain traction, the company decided to focus on easy-to-access and easy-to-play browser-based games that would appeal to a broad audience and attract enough unique users to drive an advertising-based business model. The corporate strategy shifted from acquiring exclusive game content to securing exclusive distribution relationship, while the client platform changed from a Windows executable to a browser-based java applet. Excite was their first partner. T.E. Network acquired Michael Riccio's WebDeck service, which offered Java-based versions of Euchre, Spades, and Hearts that ran in the popular web browsers circa 1998, to accelerate this transition.
In July 1998, the company launched this web-based offering as "Excite Games by TEN" and built a large audience by offering co-branded browser-based games to many of the portals available in 1998. The Pogo.com brand was launched on September 2, 1999, and the company renamed itself to Pogo.com. Pogo grew quickly, eventually outpacing its competition to become the "stickiest game site on the Internet.
Although the site was popular by late 2000, the Dot-Com bubble was bursting for most startup companies, and cash was very tight. Pogo.com entered into a deal to be purchased by then popular web portal Excite@Home Network, also a Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers/Vinod Khosla investment. However Excite was having problems of its own and heading for bankruptcy.
When AT&T took control of the Excite@Home board, they aborted the acquisition.
The Electronic Arts acquisition
In March 2001, a Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
investment from the early 1980s, Electronic Arts
Pogo.com for approximately $40 million.
Some of their distributions partners included Excite, WebCrawler, Netscape's Netcenter, Prodigy, Geocities, CNET, Snap.com, Road Runner, Go, @Home, AltaVista, Sony Station, XOOM, and iVillage. Pogo.com's games and community were very engaging and Pogo.com became the stickiest site among the top-100 Internet sites.
Club Pogo is Pogo.com's premium subscription-based service. Perks to subscribers include the ability to compete for badges, exclusive members-only rooms, no ad interruptions, graphic emoticons, private chat, "Pogo Minis" (avatars), double jackpot spins and over 35 exclusive games. Exclusive Club Pogo games include Jungle Gin, Canasta, Jigsaw Detective, Lottso, Mahjong Garden, Texas Hold'em Poker, and Word Search Daily, among others.
Club Pogo UK
On September 26th, 2007, Pogo launched Club Pogo UK. Pogo members in the UK are now able to purchase Pogo Gems, receive Jackpot Spins and other prizes in British currency (£), whereas previously they were unobtainable. Members of Club Pogo in the UK have become part of the Founders Club
on the launch date and were able to claim a new Founders badge as well as a surprise gift. A week before the launch date, on September 17th some new Pogo Mini items were released with a British theme. These have all been taken from competition entries to design new items.