raptrrmbr.jpgTwo startups visited by the vowel thief, Raptr and Rmbr, showed themselves off for the first time today at the Game Developer’s Conference Startup Launchpad. In all, five companies presented, but we’ve already covered or mentioned three: iminlikewithyou, Live Gamer and TwoFish (coverage here, here and here).

Here’s the executive summary: Raptr is both an application and a website. The app is a utility for gamers that keeps all their games up to date and downloads new content they’d be interested in. The site tracks personal statistics, aggregates info and files, and maintains a community. Rmbr is a photo sharing website that incorporates games and social networking to make people more interested in their own and others’ photos. Below are longer explanations of both sites.

Raptr
Raptr is another startup by Dennis “Thresh” Fong, a championship-winning gamer who also co-founded and sold Xfire to MTV Networks for $110 million. Those are serious credentials in the gaming world, but when Fong started his presentation, I started to worry that he’d lost his mojo.

The application Fong has created is a utility that must be downloaded and installed onto user’s computers. What it does is index all the games a user has on a computer and keep them updated — a serious pain point for dedicated gamers, Fong said. It’s essentially a sort of Windows Live Update for the game-obsessed. If that were the entire thing, it wouldn’t make for much of a business.

However, while it’s running, Raptr also keeps track of user statistics: Which games they play, how often, for how long, and so forth. That data is sent to the website, Raptr.com, where it’s collected onto an automatically-created profile. The company can also keep track of statistics for Xbox Live players.

Like another company we recently covered, Gamestrata, this one can uses the data it collects both for the player and for their friends (although it appears to gather less info than Gamestrata does). Users can thus keep track of what their friends are playing most often, and what they’re playing right at that moment.

The website goes a step further, setting up recommendations for downloadable game mods and maps, and even automatically downloading demos of new games overnight. Fong said he plans on monetizing with advertising and sponsorships.

Rmbr
I did a brief audio interview with Gabe Zichermann, the founder of Rmbr, a couple days ago. Zichermann was one of the first marketing chiefs of the GDC, and helped sell Trymedia to Macrovision in 2005. However, this is the first time he’s publicly showed off his new company.

Zichermann’s complaint is that online photo sharing utilities like Flickr and Photobucket aren’t fun enough for casual users — only people who are real aficionados tend to use them on a regular basis. His idea is both to make dealing with photos more fun, and automate more of the process of keeping a collection up to date.

To start with, users are rewarded for basic actions, like logging in or interacting with a friend (this is also true of iminlikewithyou). The point system is throughout Rmbr, and helps users feel continually engaged.

Once photos are uploaded (the site can also sync with other sites to automatically acquire content), the highlight is on simple games that also serve the purpose of tagging and categorizing photos.

For example, there’s a Photo Challenge in which users are shown photos and asked to guess what their friends said about those same photos. Between this and the comments that friends leave on photos, the system can automatically determine tags that can be attached.

Zichermann also showed off another game — a takeoff on Memory, in which players are presented with several rows of face-down cards. They have to flip the cards over to see what’s on the face, and match pairs of identical photos to win.

Perhaps most interesting was a Facebook application Zichermann said he’d release soon. The app simply makes a place on a user’s Facebook profile where a daily, random photo is displayed. Friends are allowed to vote on the photos, and their votes are reflected back on Rmbr, where the photos are organized according to their rank.

The site is still in private testing mode (as is Raptr), so we can’t show off anything more specific. Zichermann did make one more interesting comment, that he plans to make money with virtual item sales. It sounds unlikely, but as panelist Susan Wu noted, none of the biggest photo sharing sites have been well monetized or sold at particularly high valuations. Virtual items might just be the way to go.

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