Gaming-focused social site Hi5 struggled last year, but has seen the rise of paid-for services help it bounce back, as it picks up vital funding for future growth.

All About You

As a social site, Hi5 is just as much about expressing yourself as it is about finding you what your friends are up to. It's mix of avatars, gifts and games makes it more open to monetization than the status-based front-ends of its social media contemporaries. 

In light of the rise in social gaming, the company has seen a turnaround in its fortunes, having had to lay off staff last year, it has now raised a sizable chunk of venture capital from funds led by Crosslink Capital.

In The Money

Founded in 2003, the site has already seen US$ 20 million in investment and will look to use the US$ 14 million in new funding to help continue its expansion and improve its monetization rates. Recent purchases of social gaming-themed companies may well be in the pipeline to offer a wider range of services.

Hi5 users can play games and buy additional features or content with Hi5 coins. These can also be used to purchase gifts for friends, customizations for your avatar and other goodies. With over 50 million regular visitors and a top 10 youth site, Hi5 has plenty of appeal for investors trying to build up a portfolio that can show a return on the expected rise in social monetization.

Maximum Exposure

With games having tie-ins to current hot themes such as the latest movies, plus its own version of Farmville in Barn Buddy -- the site's most popular game -- Hi5 is clearly making a big push for more revenue. But with only five games topping 100,000 users, it has a long way to go.

With a developer portal opening soon that offers Facebook-compatible APIs, it should soon have a bigger range of games, enticing devs with revenue and promotion. Throw in some free PR from its CEO's war of words with Facebook, and things are looking up.

Still, Hi5 will need to make more waves (and sign up more developers) to reach the heights of its illustrious rival which has over 10 times the number of users and bigger-name developers.

With social gaming icon Alex St. John at the helm from last December, he seems to be pointing the company in the right direction, and with Facebook apparently doing all it can to annoy its user base, Hi5 could well become a go-to alternative for gaming-heavy users.