November 29, 2015 9:25 PM | Lena LeRay
Recently, a new video game market called Playfield launched in beta. It's a platform designed around leveraging existing social media for purposes of community building and enhancing game discoverability. Playfield CEO Jiri Kupiainen, who has about 15 years of experience as a game and tech developer, including working on indie title The Masterplan, has answered some questions for us about how Playfield came to be and where it's going.
It was the experience that Kupiainen and his fellows at Shark Punch had with The Masterplan which prompted them to begin work on Playfield. "We saw how massive the discovery problem in gaming had become. Many of our friends are indie developers, and most of them have this problem where they have an awesome game, but still face a lot of trouble trying to reach the audience that would fall in love with the game if they only could hear about it," he says. "And on the other hand, we're also gamers, and we're all fed up with how far behind popular distribution platforms are lagging. What about the social aspect of gaming? Communities? Influencers?"
"I think there's a massive philosophical difference between Playfield and other services. The other guys have built these massive silos, and you're either inside their walled garden or you're out. We believe in connections, so we do our best connect to services people already love such as Twitch and Twitter." says Kupiainen. "Most of game discovery is social already; we just streamline the process. We've seen how gaming culture has changed with streaming, the rise of new indie superstars, esports and all that, and we've built Playfield with all of this in mind."
Shark Punch, Kupiainen's game development studio, made use of Steam Greenlight and Early Access for The Masterplan. They had a good experience with it and felt that it helped them build a better game, which is why they have chosen to open Playfield to the world while it's still in development.
"Pretty much all the developers we talk to agree with us on what the challenges are," says Kupiainen, "and are very supportive of how we're trying to make the industry a bit better for everyone. Of course going against these massive companies is a long uphill struggle, but we find it hasn't really been hard to get great developers to sign up."
Kupiainen thinks that many players are surprised by how streamlined the experience is already. "People are naturally asking for a lot of features - it's a beta after all - but luckily the things people ask for are usually high up on our priority list already," he says. "We have a lot of cool stuff coming in the next months, focusing on the social and community aspect of it."
From a technical standpoint, the team hasn't had any big problems, according to Kupiainen. "Of course, the realities of running a marketplace are still a bit new to all of us, so we're learning new things every day. But having experience both from the developer and the consumer side has really helped make it all work," he says. "In the end we're building a community here, and naturally that's something that takes time. Happily, the numbers are moving in the right direction, though of course we'd always like them to move just a bit faster."
Kupiainen anticipates some challenges implementing new social features in the near future. "We're going to start delivering many of the more interesting social and community features we've been planning for a while. I think some of those things will work great. The others might not work as planned," he says. "I think the tech side is going to get more complicated as we branch out of just being a website, but luckily we have a lot of experience building multi-platform apps and games."
For Kupiainen, the best thing about developing Playfield is the satisfaction of creating a platform that he himself wants to use. "Naturally, every time we ship a new feature, we're making something better for ourselves to use and enjoy. The support we get from developers and gamers who understand what we're trying to do is a massive motivator every day. And it feels good to do our little bit in making the industry better," he says.
Playfield is actively seeking feedback from both developers and players about how they can improve the service. "We're big believers that building things out in the open is how you make better products and stronger communities," says Kupiainen, "so I'd like to invite everyone who cares about where the games industry is going - whether as a gamer, a developer, or both - to participate in the process. That's why we're doing special things like giving developers who sign up early a lot better revenue split than they can get elsewhere, so that we can get them involved now and get their feedback. We're open to suggestions and feedback, and very responsive." He invites people to contact him directly via Twitter or email.