GamerDNA Rises from GuildCafe, Scavenges $3 Million in Venture Gold

4/18/08Follow @wroush

The video gaming and PC gaming industry is big. A whopping $19 billion big in 2007, which doesn’t quite equal revenues from movies ($42 billion) or books ($35 billion), but still accounts for a major chunk of what U.S. consumers spend on media content. So it’s no surprise that there’s a growing list of companies going beyond the games themselves to offer services that help gamers meet other gamers, learn about the newest games, and generally get more out of their gaming experiences.

Now GuildCafe, a Cambridge, MA-based startup whose social-networking site formerly served just one corner of the gaming market—guild-oriented, massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft and The Lord of the Rings Online—is morphing into a much bigger entity that intends to go after the general gaming market, across all games and platforms. GuildCafe announced today that it’s changing its company name to GamerDNA—and that it will use a $3 million Series A investment from Boston’s Flybridge Capital Partners to build a Web-wide, “genre-neutral” platform that gamers can use to document and share their gaming experiences.

GuildCafe.com, where thousands of users gather to plan group-based campaigns inside Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft and a handful of other MMORPGs, isn’t going away. But it has already become the staging and testing area for some of the features that will become the core of GamerDNA, such as “autoblogging” of players’ adventures using data collected automatically from sources such as the Blizzard Armory, a huge, publicly searchable database recording activity inside the World of Warcraft game world.

Founder and CEO Jon Radoff, himself a longtime gamer, says the new GamerDNA platform will be launched late this spring, and that it will include a central website where users can create personal profiles tracking their achievements across many games, as well as widgets that will allow users to access or modify their profiles from other websites. The long-term goal isn’t necessarily to create a grand “uber-destination” site for gamers, according to Radoff, but to provide underlying services and code that make a gamer’s personal data, history, and experiences portable across the Web—hence the “DNA” reference.

“The essence of the GamerDNA brand is that it’s very personal to you as a gamer,” says Radoff. In his vision, the community will be a place to capture “the things that you care about or that you’ve done….That identity then becomes something that is portable across all kinds of communities and games.”

This isn’t a totally untrodden path: a number of startups, most notably Napster founder Shawn Fanning’s Rupture, are trying to build communities that help gamers manage their identities across various games and that tap into data and statistics from the games themselves. But Radoff believes GamerDNA’s emphasis on gamers’ personal experiences will give it a unique spin—and Flybridge apparently agrees. The firm’s $3 million investment follows on a $600,000 seed round announced last summer.

“Great companies are built by people who really understand their customers,” Jon Karlen, a Flybridge general partner, said in the company’s press release today about the rebranding. “We’re excited about building a place for gamers, led by a team of seasoned entrepreneurs who are also avid gamers themselves.”

For the whole scoop on GamerDNA, check out the full transcript of my interview with Radoff, in which he details the company’s plans for driving greater engagement between gamers.

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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