About a decade ago playing visually rich and enthralling games on your computer required an installation, a reboot, and some considerable horsepower. These days, between lean browsers and speedy broadband connections, people are now able to play something for a few minutes without installing anything. The latest movement in online games is playing them with others, and building platforms and content delivery systems that let fledgling developers share their work with others.
By the way, Bunchball has one of the coolest favicons I've seen...ever.
FlowPlay a casual games aggregation site that runs entirely in Adobe Flash. All the basic games are free. There's also a subscription model that opens up the more advanced titles. The service has integrated a social network with user profiles, rankings, and user avatars. Similar to Meez, and Gizmoz, user avatars are completely customizable, and users can purchase clothing and accessories to change their virtual appearance.
Hothead Games was definitely the odd man out in this group. They create PC and console games. Their upcoming project Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness is one of the more interesting stories of Internet success. Penny Arcade, which gets over 4 million visitors a month, is a video game blog/comic strip that's become so popular it's jumped off the Web, and has its own video gaming festival.
Jim Greer, co-founder and CEO of Kongregate [review] talked about his site, and company who recently celebrated their one-year anniversary. The service is a casual games site mixed with a social network. It's library currently has about 1000 games. Users can chat with one another, view each others profiles, and their gaming achievements--a feature similar to Microsoft's XBOX Live Arcade. Greer says Kongregate's version was inspired by Pogo.com's badge system.
The site is planning to roll out a micropayment system and a subscription model so users can purchase full versions of games, or subscribe to access premium titles.