Capturing the Personal Essence of Gaming: An Interview with GamerDNA CEO Jon Radoff

4/18/08Follow @wroush

It’s a big day for the company formerly known as GuildCafe, which is announcing a new name—GamerDNA—and a new $3 million funding round from Flybridge Capital Partners (see main story). I interviewed GamerDNA founder and CEO (and avid gamer) Jon Radoff about the changes earlier this week; a lightly edited transcript follows.

Xconomy: When we first talked about GuildCafe last year, you’d just gotten a seed investment from what was then IDG Ventures Boston, now Flybridge. From the news about the Series A round, it sounds like some validation of that seed investment occurred.

Jon Radoff: When we first did the investment we had established some metrics and measurements around user acquisition and the virality of the site, as well as a number of business development milestones that would indicate it was a good company, and those things basically happened. That got Flybridge excited about investing in the company.

X: It sounds like with this new investment and rebranding, you aren’t exactly repudiating what you were doing with GuildCafe, but you are taking the business in a very different direction.

GamerDNA CEO Jon RadoffJR: What really worked out great with GuildCafe is that it’s been both a terrific utility for people who play MMORPGs—in the sense that it’s a place where you can pull your whole gaming group together, keep track of your members, communicate with your players—and also a great way to sign up members for the social networking part of the site. The GuildCafe core function of guild hosting is going to continue, and we’re going to build on top of that. But we’re expanding our reach into some of the other markets which we haven’t done much with yet. That would include the console market, the Xbox 360 in particular, as well as other types of PC games that are not as associated with guilds and gaming groups but make up a big part of the average gamer’s experience.

The idea behind GamerDNA is to provide a means of identity—a place where players can record all the stories around all of the cool stuff they’ve done, be it achievements, accomplishments, or experiences they’ve had. The thing you usually have at the end of a game session is just the saved game file, which gets lost and forgotten. What we’re doing at GamerDNA is creating a place to record all the neat things you’ve done with games and to have a whole story around your gaming experience. That becomes the catalyst for having events and tournaments as well as socializing around the site.

X: From what you’ve said so far about creating an online destination for gamers across many different games, it sounds a lot like what some other companies such as Rupture, Ugame, and Raptr are trying.

JR: There is certainly competition in this market, and it has heated up since the time we did an initial seed investment. But I think our position in the marketplace is quite a bit different than the other people building sites. They are focused on the statistical nature of game play—what your score was and how you compare to other people. That is a piece of what we’ll be doing, but we’ve discovered that the real hard-core statistical aspects of game play are not what appeal to broad swaths of gamers. They really want the more personal element—”Here is what I did in the game and here is how it touched me and how that particular game experience spoke to me.” I don’t think that is something that any of our competitors are doing.

X: Don’t several of the consoles, particularly the Xbox, provide some opportunities for online socializing within the game platform?

JR: Not really. The main thing they’ve got is matchmaking functions. If you are looking to play with someone or against someone in the game—someone with a similar level of experience for example—all of those platforms provide some matchmaking functions. Xbox Live has really paved the way for that. But what they haven’t done is … Next Page »

Wade Roush is Chief Correspondent and Editor At Large at Xconomy. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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