Social media has become a crowded space for advertisers as discovery becomes increasingly important to the success of new mobile titles.
While many of the big social networks has its own, paid way to reach targeted users, some developers and publishers are looking for a holy grail solution of a social network specifically for gaming.
The main hurdle facing this type of network is the need to convince users that it’s powerful, different, and fun enough to be used alongside the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
One new contender, GameLoop, thinks it has the ability to do just that, so we caught up with CEO and co-founder Steve Ganem to find out more about the new service.
Pocket Gamer: Social networking on mobile seems to be locked down between the big players, how does GameLoop hope to find purchase in this space?
Steven Ganem: GameLoop is a social network created specifically for gamers. Its entire feature set and presentation revolve around the purpose of connecting like-minded gamers and recommending new games to the players most likely to enjoy them.
A typical user will be anyone who enjoys playing games and has a smart phone.
And since it's scope is so focused, the GameLoop experience is much deeper because users are completely free to express their gaming opinions with others who share their taste in games.
For example, if I just beat a level in Candy Crush or Monument Valley that I was stuck on for 5 days, I deserve bragging rights! I just might want to post a screenshot with some tips on how to beat it, and I don't want to be hidden or blocked by friends for doing it. And that’s just it - because that's the whole purpose of GameLoop, you won’t be.
And regarding friends - your list of friends in GameLoop will be entirely different than your friends list in Facebook because not everyone in your general social circle plays games or wants to talk about games. And because games are so social now, we often have gaming friends who are completely outside of our general social circle.
For instance, I have two-year-long running game sessions with players that I was randomly matched up with in Food Truck Wars. Those players can be my GameLoop friends even if we're not Facebook friends.
As far as earning market share in the space, it's clear now that social networking is not a "winner-takes-all" market.
Instead, each network brings out a different persona, and GameLoop focuses on your gaming persona. I think LinkedIn is a great example of how different and valuable a focused social network can be.
It demonstrates clearly that there’s room for distinct social networks as long as they address a need that other networks leave unfulfilled.
What advantages in discovery does GameLoop offer over, say, video streaming services?
Video streaming services like Twitch are great for hardcore fans.
Viewers consume feeds like some might watch sports on TV. And trending video streams rise to the top, so it's dynamic in that sense, but although the community is being fed, that community is not really a source for app discovery - and particularly not for mobile apps.
The one-size-fits-all approach just doesn't fly in the mobile gaming world because the breadth of games is just too large.
The landscape of games is so massive that a crowd-based solution for discovery is necessary - there are about 100 games submitted to the app store each day! How in the world can you filter through that much data on your own?
That’s why app discovery is absolutely fundamental to the core of GameLoop.
GameLoop demonstrates its value by recommending games to you dynamically based on your personal gaming profile as opposed to a static, curated list.
The one-size-fits-all approach just doesn't fly in the mobile gaming world because the breadth of games is just too large. And your personalized list of recommendations in GameLoop updates constantly as games trend in popularity and as you add to your gaming library and follow new friends.
A key hurdle in discovery is that users must typically indicate what they like or don’t like. Until you know what someone likes, how do you know what to recommend to them?
But just imagine if Pinterest was informed by your Amazon purchase history and, from your very first view, was able to present you with a wall of stuff right up your alley. In the same way, your GameLoop gaming profile is informed by your installed gaming apps, and so the experience is analogous to that.
You can, of course, manually add apps to your list of favorites and also tap into your PSN, Xbox, and Steam accounts to round out your gaming profile, but from the very first time you start the app, your feed and recommended games are tailored to you.
And because they are, you’ll keep checking in because everything you’re being fed is effortlessly relevant.
Now, aside from your personalized list of recommendations, you can also search for posts tagged with specific games. But unlike other social networks that use hash tags to identify posts, GameLoop allows users to tag posts with their associated game.
Hash tags are prone to typos and variations in spelling - take as an example the game Order Up!! To Go. What hash tag do you use for that? What will users search for? The ambiguity is eliminated when you tag and search for the actual game itself.
How does GameLoop allow developers engage with players – and potential players – in ways that aren’t covered by existing social media options?
During the initial release, this revolves around our Game Tagging feature.
Like other social networks, developers can be active members of the community and can engage the players that they can find that way. The problem typically lies in being able to easily connect to those players when they are actively talking about your games.
For example, as developers we have built a popular franchise of games called Order Up!! across consoles and mobile devices. We often jump onto Twitter and Facebook to try to find people talking about the games, hoping to offer suggestions or support, or maybe "favorite" their posts, or even just share their excited posts celebrating the games.
Facebook is an even muddier scenario... it's basically impossible to actually connect to any of those players without having them actually follow your official page.
On Twitter, doing a search for "Order Up" returns hundreds of results.
We need to sift through countless posts that are just using "Order Up" as a phrase, or that simply have the words "Order" and "Up" somewhere in the post. The majority of the posts that we come across that are, in fact, talking about the game, have no idea that there is actually an official @OrderUpGames feed, until we reach out to them.
Facebook is an even muddier scenario, as the massive social network will tell you that hundreds or thousands of people are "talking about this", but it's basically impossible to actually connect to any of those players without having them actually follow your official page.
Furthermore, even page-followers aren't alerted to everything that you share, without the page admin having to pay potentially daunting fees to reach them all. That is certainly not ideal for building a community that you had hoped to communicate with on a regular basis.
With Game Tagging on GameLoop, so much of this is instantly eliminated. Any member of the community - developers included - can directly search for posts pertaining to a specific game, or even a specific version of that game. It's really that easy.
Without revealing too much, we also have future plans currently in development that will present developers with integrated tools to actually build GameLoop communities around and within their games.
What steps does GameLoop take to make sure the posts are genuine - not from sockpuppets - and don't contain objectionable material?
GameLoop deals with this issue with equal parts prevention and cure.
Due to the nature of mobile devices, it is difficult to automate interacting with an app so bots and sockpuppets are not as pervasive as they are on the web. We have also implemented our own secure communication protocol that adds another barrier against automated attacks.
And with regards to objectionable material, our moderation will be reactive instead of proactive. Specifically, users will be able to flag content as objectionable and we'll take those objections seriously. This approach leads to a more open and more responsive experience.
Lastly, if a bad apple is pestering you or posting offensive content, you can block that user to prevent any sort of communication with them.
When building a social networking platform like GameLoop, the vision is obviously a positive and ultimately constructive one, but we aren't naive about the realities of public forums of expression and we’ve taken steps to handle these eventualities.
Who do you see as the typical user of GameLoop?
A typical user will be anyone who enjoys playing games and has a smart phone.
Games are social by nature and there is a natural tendency to want to share your experience with others or see what fun games other people are enjoying. Whether you have a competitive spirit and want to brag about your latest high score or just want to discover that next game that will keep you glued to your phone, GameLoop is the place for that expression.
If you use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Vine, you will be comfortable using GameLoop. We intentionally built GameLoop to be instantly familiar for those who enjoy using those apps.
GameLoop focuses on your gaming persona.
You can browse the Live Feed - aka The Loop - to see what's trending, follow other people, gain followers yourself, and make posts tagged with games and people. But as I mentioned earlier, GameLoop focuses on your gaming persona. When you post about Candy Crush or Clash of Clans on those other platforms you may not reach the right audience. In GameLoop, you definitely will.
Of course, we haven't forgotten about the hardcore gamers out there.
Are you a Titanfall, League of Legends, or Street Fighter 4 fan who wants to connect with other local players in order to minimize lag? You can search for nearby gamers and organize a play session.
GameLoop integrates PC, mobile, and console games - why did you make the decision to launch GameLoop as a mobile-only app?
It just so happens that the largest gaming audience - by far - is also the one with the least cohesiveness and fewest options when it comes to diving deeper into their favorite games. This is the mobile audience.
The potential to connect such a massive group of game players more thoughtfully is very exciting.
There are platforms for players that are considered more "hardcore", such as Raptr or Steam for PC gamers, but these cater primarily to a subset of a much larger audience.
GameLoop aims to help bridge the gap between console, computer, and mobile game players as our community grows, because at the center of it all, every single one of these players is interested in the same basic thing: video games.
Arguments and efforts to prove who is more hardcore, or to prove that consoles are superior to mobile devices, or that both of those things are less powerful than a heavy-hitting gaming rig computer, won't matter on GameLoop.
There are millions of game players out there that cross multiple segments of gaming and we offer all of them a place to share a common passion for all kinds of games. It starts with a mobile app because even the vast majority of console and computer game players have one thing in common - the mobile device in their pocket, that also has games on it.
Imagine a world where an Xbox-dedicated gamer takes to GameLoop to talk about Halo, and also tells the community how addicted they are to Threes on their iPhone when they need a change of pace, only to discover that a GameLoop friend who also loves Threes as much as they do, happens to be a die-hard Playstation gamer according to their GameLoop profile.
We're all about the bigger picture with GameLoop, and the entirety of the video game-playing audience is a massive picture.
For more information on GameLoop, you can visit its website.