The gaming universe is moving strongly in the “social” direction. Mainstream, casual, console, or PC – regardless of the genre or platform, one of the most important facets of games today is the social capabilities they offer.
Inevitably, social structures form with in game communities: clans on Xbox Live, guilds in World of Warcraft, and of course the vast networks within social games that reside in places like Facebook or Bebo. Players congregate in these social environments, and most of them play on more than one platform. This is where Raptr comes in.
Raptr is a powerful social network that bridges different platforms in the gaming world. Founded by Dennis Fong, Raptr allows users to monitor what games their friends are playing, track accomplishments, supply automatic updates, and do so across multiple platforms. Fong describes it as a “social platform for people who like to play and discover games.”
Comparable to services such as the ever popular Xbox Live, Raptr not only utilizes many familiar capabilities, but surpasses them. One of the most powerful features is the “gamer buddy list” that, like Xbox Live, can track players’ friends and see what games they are playing. However, unlike Xbox Live, users are not limited to just one platform. They can in fact track buddies that play games on their PC, Mac, in Flash, Facebook, and even some games on the PS3 and Wii. The system even includes a Facebook style chat system to communicate with everyone on your buddy list.
But Raptr isn’t just Xbox Live on steriods – the system is also capable of tracking far more detailed information than just what game a user is playing. It can also display gamers’ Halo 3 achievements or Rock Band high scores. It even displays “Gamer Badges” currently seen on modern consoles, which has almost become a requirement for any game-centered social network these days. However, the features are not just limited to displaying past achievements and rewards, but is also capable of updates more representative of a live stream.
Through API supported games, information as detailed as “Bob of Illidan equips: Glowing Great Sword of the Tiger” from World of Warcraft, or as general as “Bob just played ‘x game’” can be shown. While it may seem minor at first, the capability of tracking such details in a game is actually a major tool for social reengagement. Think of it as a “news feed” with details from each specific game. It’s a nice combination of a Facebook-style News Feed and gaming television (many players will sit and watch live streaming raids and player vs player in World of Warcraft). Hell, Starcraft is shown as a national sport in Korea. There’s great potential in owning the gaming feed.
Raptr is also making efforts to drive traffic to its website. Back at the beginning of the year, one of the biggest selling factors of Raptr was its capability to provide automatic updates for all supported games, all in one convenient location. Since that time, some other features have overshadowed this ability, perhaps because the these updates can only currently be applied for PC games. It is possible to provide updates for other platforms, but unfortunately, not everyone have made their data accessible. While Microsoft has provided back-end support for Xbox Live, other major companies like Sony have not yet provided an API, thus greatly limiting the number of supported PS3 games.
Despite the challenge of supporting such a wide variety of games and consoles, Raptr has done a phenomenal job of focusing on providing value to the gaming community. It has several social features that will stimulate reengagement, much like Fong’s last company, Xfire. Having a central hub for this social interaction will go a long way in building the Raptr network into a robust community. We will be watching with eager eyes to see where Raptr goes from here.