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

There’s a startup in Cambridge, MA, that’s quietly collecting gigabytes of data about the likes, dislikes, habits, and exploits of hard-core gamers. Given how lucrative console and online gaming have become—bringing in $1.3 billion for U.S. publishers in October alone, up 18 percent from the same month last year—you might guess that the startup intends to sell its insights to game companies, perhaps as a way of targeting gamers with advertisements and offers.

But that’s not the idea at all. The company, GamerDNA, was founded by and for gamers—and next week it will formally unveil the piece of software that’s making use of all of that data, a “discovery engine” designed to help gamers find new games they might like and connect with other gamers who have similar tastes.

“At GamerDNA the consumer is number one in everything we do,” says founder and CEO Jon Radoff, whom I’ve interviewed a couple of times before. “It’s all about helping you find other people like you, games you’ll enjoy, communities where you are going to feel at home, and tools for creating your identity as a gamer online.”

The discovery engine, which has been in a beta testing phase for several months, is a more sophisticated alternative to other automated game-recommendation systems, which are pretty much limited to the Amazon-style “customers who bought Final Fantasy XII also bought Kingdom Hearts 2” genre. In other media, such as music, fans and developers are outgrowing the old-fashioned collaborative filtering technology inside most recommendation systems (including Amazon’s), and are looking for fresh information sources that cater to their unique personal tastes. That’s what GamerDNA’s system is designed to do for the console video game and online role-playing genres.

The GamerDNA discovery engine at workThe engine works in part by breaking down user feedback into categories: setting, tone, who the user plays as, who the user plays against, and how the game works. “For some people, it’s all about the world,” explains Radoff. “For others, it’s who you get to be in that world. People want to be able to search along those particular lines, because they’re going to get a result that’s more relevant to them.”

During a visit to GamerDNA’s groovy Central Square office last week—which must be right above an Indian restaurant, since I left with a huge craving for chicken makhani—Radoff walked me through the discovery engine’s process for plumbing what users like about various game, and then serving up informed suggestions about what other games they might like.

I started by entering the title Bioshock, one of my favorite Xbox 360 games, into the GamerDNA discovery engine’s search box—the same way a music fan might enter an artist or a song name into the search box at Pandora’s personalized streaming music service. Then the system asked me, “Why do you like Bioshock?” Well, to me, the coolest thing about the game is … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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