Selling digital PC games is a tough space with a lot of competition, but one startup is looking to stand out by making the shopping experience more engaging and personalized for both consumers and developers.
Playfield.io is a digital retailer for PC games that launched last year and is already on pace to have 100,000 monthly active gamers this month, according to founder and chief executive officer Jiri Kupiainen. The company is now looking to keep that audience coming back while simultaneously fueling exponential growth by offering new features that will set it apart from competitors like the mammoth Valve-controlled Steam store or the fast-growing GOG from Witcher 3 developer CD Projekt Red. These additions to the Playfield site include real-time recommendations, an automatic content aggregator, and a deep integration into your social media presence.
Kupiainen is also CEO of developer Shark Punch, which produced the PC release The Masterplan. He says that experience helped him understand what gamers and developers want. And with that knowledge, Playfield is trying to make a dent in the $34 billion PC gaming market by offering up a specialized experience that can give gamers more than just deals.
“Now that we’ve got the ecommerce stuff out of the way, we can now focus on our main mission,” Kupiainen told GamesBeat. “We want to help people make sense of what is happening in gaming. We want to be the destination for people who care about gaming — where you go every day to discover news, cool new games, and great content about games.”
When it comes to discovery, Playfield is hyping up how its recommendations work differently than other stores. Instead of suggesting games to you based on only the things you buy or already own, Playfield is going to instantly react to the games and content you show interest in on the site. This will enable the store to surface many different games that it thinks you may like during the same visit.
“We’ve always talked a lot about discovery and how important it is,” said Kupiainen. “Now, if you go to Playfield and start clicking around, you’ll see there’s a tray at the bottom that keeps changing. If you look at the competition, you see that their recommendations are trailing — they lag behind your actions. For us, we want to help you along as you’re exploring instead of sending you an email two weeks later when it’s maybe not interesting anymore.”
But while Playfield is figuring out how to make discovery more immediate, it is also working on a way to get you coming back to its site on a regular basis with its content aggregator. The company has built a tool that automatically pulls in news, videos, tweets, and more about a game. You can then view all of that by clicking the “feed” button on the store page for any game, and it will load in tweets from the developers, coverage from news sites, and gameplay videos from fans.
This not only helps customers learn about a product but also helps developers who may not have the time to search out all of the information about their game on the web. And those studios are likely putting any time they have into maintaining their Steam page and company blogs — but now they have this other resource that is doing a lot of that work for them.
The third big change to Playfield is social integration that provides gamers with relevant deals and info based on what’s happening in their lives.
“For us, it’s always been key that we don’t want you to create a new account on Playfield. We want you to sign in with an existing account,” said Kupiainen. “If you sign in with Google or Facebook or Twitter, we know a bit more about who you are and who are the people you care about.”
This helps gamers quickly find their friends on Playfield. You can follow them and see what games they’re playing or interested in. And the company wants to proactively use this info to data to keep you connected with your friends.
“If we see that several of your friends have recently bought a game, we might send you an email that says since your buddies are playing this game and you’re missing out, why not use this 10 percent discount so you can buy it and join in on the fun,” said Kupiainen.
Playfield has a lot of other things in the works to help make it a viable competitor to Steam and GOG. For example, it is planning to redesign its front page later this year to more heavily emphasize a lot of the features it is launching now. And it may even roll a lot of that into a standalone experience that could rival the GOG Galaxy or Steam clients to give players a hub outside of their browsers.