updated 9/6/2006 6:59:28 PM ET 2006-09-06T22:59:28

Big Fish Games Inc., a developer and publisher of casual games, is taking a page out of the social-networking handbook.

A service the company launched Wednesday lets users create their own Web site to write and share game reviews and earn rewards in a referral program. It takes the community aspects of popular sites like and tunes it for a crowd of casual gamers, who are mostly older women, said Paul Thelen, Big Fish's chief executive.

"Our users are more interested in having a presence online but they would rather be anonymous," Thelen said. "What we think is exciting about this is that it is a hobby. This is what people do already, and this is a very passionate crowd."

Visitors to can sign up for free and customize the look and feel of their Web site. They will be eligible for cash rewards in a program described by company officials as a self-sustaining network of friends referring friends.

For example, a player who refers a friend will receive a 25 percent commission on any game the friend buys at the Big Fish site. In addition, the original player will get another 25 percent from the sales of games on any personal Big Fish sites created by friends of friends.

The games, such as "Diner Dash 2" and "Dream Vacation Solitaire," generally cost about $20 to buy and download.

Next month, the Seattle-based company plans to let players donate to charities any cash earned in the referral program.

Casual games — a genre loosely describing simpler games that can be played in short spurts or for long stretches — are expected to post worldwide revenues of $953 million this year, up from $713 million last year, according to DFC Intelligence.

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