New PC game discovery service aims to reach beyond Steam – Gamasutra
Game discovery service Sprked debuted last month with a simple premise: help people find new PC games to play by serving up recommendations (from a curated list) based on the person’s mood, interests or preferred genres. The pitch, quite literally, is to make something like Songza, but for games.
That’s notable enough in light of how PC game makers are struggling to get their games noticed, but what makes Sprked extra-intriguing is its previous incarnation as a crowdfunding platform for modders.
That was how it originally launched in June, shortly after Valve’s paid mod program imploded, but Sprked CEO Andrew Moussa now says that the idea didn’t get enough traction with developers.
“Having spoken and worked with many indie game developers, we realized that it’s very difficult for them to consider any options other than Kickstarter, even though it’s extremely overcrowded,” he told Gamasutra via email. “We still wanted to work in gaming/with indie game developers, so we decided to focus on discovery.”
That’s a valid change-up, if a bit late to the game. Valve launched its own big Discovery update last year that added (among other things) a recommendation engine to Steam, and reported in March that game sales and store traffic swelled as a result.
However, discovery remains a big enough problem for PC game makers that Unity exec Clive Downie just last month stated “discovery kind of sucks” on-stage at the company’s big developer conference in Boston and laid plans to improve the situation.
For Sprked, the answer is an algorithm, Genie, that searches for PC games across multiple services (Steam, Gamejolt, Itch.io, etc.) and weighs them based on multiple “on-page” and “off-page” criteria (Steam reviews vs. what people are saying on Twitter about a game, for example) before adding them to its list of regularly-updated recommended games.
“We weigh multiple factors as a whole and not individually, before ranking, clustering and making the games available [on Sprked],” says Moussa. “So for example, we won’t neglect a game for having a low number of downloads…the same way we won’t necessarily feature a game that has 1 million downloads. After all, we wouldn’t be doing our users any favors by just promoting games that have been on the homepage of Steam for the last 30 days.”
The company has actual live humans overseeing the process, and Moussa recommends that developers who’d like their games to be featured or re-catalogued on Sprked (if your rhythm action game is appearing under the Construction/Tower Defense category, for example) should reach out to the company directly via Twitter.
It’s yet unclear how effective the platform is at actually driving business to developers, though Moussa does note that Sprked currently has “a few thousand active daily users” who tend to spend at least five minutes on the service per visit and return multiple times throughout the week. However, Sprked doesn’t have access to sales data for games it recommends because it has no partnerships in place with the services it scans: Sprked simply points people to store pages on the web.
Going forward, the company aims to try and build relationships with the services it recommends and will consider other monetization options, as well as a mobile app — after it expands and stabilizes its pool of users.
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