Logging into the homepage of Renren, you will see a line claiming “the Chinese leading real-name SNS site”. Sounds nice, but is that really what the company is heading to now?

Latest earnings reports of the Beijing-based company showed that gaming revenues kept rising since its IPO, meanwhile the ads business showed a downturn. In Q1 2012, gaming revenues were US$17.5 million, a 90.7% increase from a year earlier, representing more than half (54.5%) of its total revenue. Renren CEO Joseph Chen commented at the conference call that, “Our gaming revenue, driven by the popularity of our recently launched games and mobile gaming efforts, outperformed our expectation, offsetting the weakness in advertising.”

Recently, a Chinese social media expert Wei Wuhui wrote a blog post titled “The gaming company: Renren.” In his opinion, Renren has already become a gaming company and that it’s been a Jack of all trades involving too many businesses in its versatile strategy. The company reportedly will be spinning off its gaming arm for an independent IPO this September. ‘What will be left for the social networking platform after that?” asked Wei.

Renren went public in May, 2011 and claimed to be the Chinese Facebook + Zynga + Groupon + Linkedin. Now the formular should be expanded for Renren added new toys to its portfolios – a Quora for car owners called Chewen, and a video site 56.com. Actually in the past decade, this company has tried almost every viable internet business model, few of them lasted long until recently the gaming arm stands out.

Renren’s web pages and the UI of its iOS app both look awfully similar to Facebook. Wei once thought that “Renren is going way too far from being a Facebook now.” Take a look at the two companies in revenue breakdown: over 80% of Facebook’s revenues come from ads; for Renren it’s only 14.8%.

Renren’s gaming pipeline mostly consists of browser-based games and mobile games, which all have relatively shorter life cycle. To solve the problem, Renren has to come up with new offerings from time to time to retain users.

When Renren is on track to transform itself to a gaming company, the Chinese Internet titan Tencent is trying to pull off tighter control over its SNS initiatives.

动点科技驻湾区记者. Charlie is an entrepreneur based in San Francisco and Hong Kong who calls herself the undefeated caffeine champion. You can reach her at charlie.sheng (at) technode.com

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