Facebook celebrity game borrows from fantasy sports

Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:54pm EDT

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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Your ability to predict whether a celebrity's star power will rise or fall is about to come in handy.

Launching on Sunday is FanSwarm, a Hollywood version of fantasy sports for Facebook users. But in this case your team consists of a group of celebrities who score points based on what's being said about them in tweets and on blogs.

Whether an actor scores a major role or freaks out in a hotel, it doesn't much matter, because players are scoring points whenever news is generated.

"We use an algorithm that reads the heat of the social graph to figure out if a celebrity is hot or not," said Doug Levin, president and CEO of nascent developer Ayeah Games. "You can gain points by betting on Charlie Sheen's and Lindsay Lohan's crazy careers."

It's not limited to actors, either. At launch, FanSwarm's data base will have about 2,000 names from which to choose including Sarah Palin, Bill O'Reilly and President Barack Obama.

FanSwarm users will compete to become king or queen of the entire userbase: the "Swarm." Additionally, they can build teams or leagues and compete on a smaller scale.

Players also earn points by playing mini games like TV trivia and by nominating new celebrities that are accepted into the data base.

FanSwarm will aggregate news content around the celebrities and encourage commentary.

Players choose a group of celebrities and put them into 20 different "scenes," the selection of which also increases or decreases points. Putting Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in the "beach" scene is a wise move, for example, but not if Jennifer Aniston also is there.

Levin said he got the idea for FanSwarm when he was disappointed that George Clooney didn't win an Oscar this year for "Up in the Air," but he had nowhere to go online and vent. And he knew he was on to something when he observed women reacting to Sandra Bullock's marital problems with Jesse James.

"The environment is a highly structured way for people to express themselves, and we encourage user-generated content," Levin said. "Leave a comment, get points, play with friends, map out your predictions about celebrities. Our research says people are interested in these ideas."

Levin has raised one round of angel funding for the company and next month begins raising venture capital. The business model includes micropayments for virtual goodies, and he intends on selling data to PR executives, talent management and anyone else interested in the blogosphere's opinion of a celebrity.

In 2002, Levin founded Black Duck Software, a company backed by Intel, SAP and Red Hat; he stepped down as CEO last year. He is a consultant to several tech companies in Massachusetts, where Ayeah is based, and he is a former CEO of MessageMachines and X-Collaboration Software.

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