GamerDNA’s New Discovery Engine Helps Gamers Find More Games They’ll Love

12/8/08Follow @wroush

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the world in which it takes place–a vast, crumbling, leaky underwater city in the Art Deco style, sort of like 1930s Manhattan redesigned by Ayn Rand and Esther Williams.

Under “Setting,” I was able to choose from tags or traits that other players have contributed regarding Bioshock, like “original,” “retro,” “sci-fi,” and “steampunk”—or add my own adjective. I chose “original.” I also chose “dark” and “immersive” under Tone, “unlikely hero” under Playing As, and “first person shooter” under Game Mechanics.

The discovery engine came back with recommendations for five other games I might like. I already own one of them—Gears of War—so I knew right away that the engine was on target. The other four—Halo 3, Fallout 3, Call of Duty 4, and Half-Life 2—sounded pretty cool as well. But the system didn’t just push those games at me: it told me why I might like them. Halo, Call of Duty, and Half-Life are first-person shooters; Gears of War is a shooter with a dark tone; Fallout 3 is dark, and has an unlikely hero.

The GamerDNA discovery engine -- resultsThere’s much more to the GamerDNA community site. Practically every game you can name, for example, has a page collecting stories that GamerDNA members themselves have written about their experiences playing them, so you can see what users liked and didn’t like in excruciating detail. And the company has many other ways of gauging and aggregating players’ attitudes about specific games, including quizzes and game-play statistics drawn straight from Xbox Live, the World of Warcraft Armory, and other Internet-based clearinghouses for gamer data.

The discovery engine incorporates all of these sources, and will become one of the main draws to the GamerDNA site, Radoff hopes. The site already has some 320,000 members and is growing every day as more gamers hear about it from their friends. (The company, which is funded entirely by Flybridge Capital Partners of Boston, hasn’t done any formal marketing.) And while the engine is already providing meaningful results to users, “it’s going to get better over time” as the community grows and more people add their own tags and reviews.

Radoff hasn’t spoken publicly about GamerDNA’s business model. But one revenue source, he says, could be affiliate commissions paid by e-retailers when members buy games that they’ve found through GamerDNA’s discovery engine. “We want to become the place that people come every time they are thinking about picking up a game,” he says.

And that means highlighting the bad games as well as the good ones. “By crowdsourcing the recommendations to our community, we know they’re based on what people really like,” says Radoff. “Gamers aren’t as trusting of professional reviews as they once were; there’s a perception that some journalists have been fired for writing negative reviews, because their publications were tied to advertising and they were incapable of separating the review from the revenue. We are not going to get into that. We will carry advertising, but it will be a secondary revenue stream. We simply want to provide people with information so they can pick up a game they’ll really enjoy—knowing that their decision was based on authentic recommendations.”

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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