Interview With Demian Linn Director of Community at Raptr

Interview With Demian Linn Director of Community at Raptr

Today we sat down with the Director of Community at Raptr, Demian Linn to talk about the social gaming network. They discuss the future console support with the next generation consoles looming, and the new reward system.

Thanks so much for taking time to talk with us here at Darkstation.com! First can you just introduce yourself and tell us about your work on Raptr and a little bit about your service?

Sure -- my name is Demian Linn, I’m the director of community at Raptr, and the short answer is it’s my job to make sure that when you come to Raptr.com, there’s interesting stuff for you to see and do.

Long answer...Raptr does a lot of things, but overall, Raptr is where your gamer rep lives -- we bring all your gamer identities (Xbox Gamertag, PSN and Steam accounts, etc.) together in one place, let you compare your expertise in particular games with friends, and give you rewards for playing games. We can track your gameplay stats and achievements and then display them on your profile with cool charts and graphs, give you ranks in each game you play based on your playtime and achievements earned compared to the community at large, and then we partner with game publishers so that when you rank up you earn access to betas, in-game items, and even free games.

We have a desktop app you can run that will let you chat with your various IM/Steam/XBL/Raptr friends, browse the Internet, and view and contribute to Raptr’s many game communities on Raptr.com, all from within whatever game you’re playing. And very soon we’re adding the ability to stream your gameplay to Twitch without needing any additional software. We have regular community game nights as well as community Q&As with developers of games like Assassin’s Creed III, Dishonored, EVE, Rift, Tribes, etc.

And we have an iPhone app! For your iPhone needs.

A lot of us (if not all of us) on staff here at Darkstation.com use Raptr, can you tell us some of the big selling points for using your service?

Oh, see that’s what I get for not reading ahead. I went through most of the big ones above, but to expand on the rewards a little bit, we’ve given away over a $1.5 million in stuff, including thousands of free copies of Minecraft XBLA, Dead Island, Rift, Stacking, Assassin’s Creed titles, early access to the StarCraft 2 beta back when that was the hot ticket, big discounts on Logitech gear...things that a person would actually want, is what I’m getting at.

This console generation saw a multitude of individuality driven changes that continued to mature through the life of the cycle. Pushes to allow gamers feel as if their name carries weight in the online environment of their prefered platform has very much changed the way gamers interact with each other, and the games they are playing. If these “Voice of the player” designed changes are furthered explored in the future, how might it affect the relevance of your service? Loyal users will stay, but do you have plans for expanding Raptr to new players?

We’re all for anything that amplifies the voice of the player. And in fact we’ve got the data to prove that when publishers prioritize supporting their fans and make tools for players to create their own content, it pays off in a big way.

But if you’re asking are we worried that game publishers or platform holders will build something that makes Raptr obsolete, not really. We’ve seen multiple publishers spend a lot of time and money creating their own social networks around their games, and with varying success, but they’re still all building walled gardens. But gamers don’t just play one game, and they don’t just play on one console, so segregated game communities will always be challenged. This is where Raptr fits in.

With the looming launch of new consoles, is Raptr able to see anything about the new achievement infrastructure? What contingency plans do you have in case there ARE no achievements or trophies in the next systems?

Unfortunately we don’t have inside info on what Sony and Microsoft have planned in terms of next-gen achievements and trophies, but I’d be shocked if they went away. They just work too well. They may evolve in some way, but we’ll just evolve right along with them. If anything I expect the next-gen consoles will have more types of gameplay data to share rather than less.

With the aforementioned consoles ever approaching, and the Wii U already upon us, how far into the cycle does Raptr plan to track stats for the current consoles?

As long as the platform holders continue to support the distribution of gameplay and achievement/trophy data, we’ll track it. Right now Microsoft and Valve/Steam are pretty good about giving access to data, PSN is more closed (only sharing Trophy info), and then Nintendo is completely closed, which is why we don’t track anything for their platforms...there’s nothing to track.

In conjunction, the market will see some less traditional consoles this year in the OUYA, and GameStick. Will player statistics from these be followed as well? Will your rewards program be extended to those?

That’s kind of up in the air, and depends on a couple factors. If a large player base moves to those platforms, we’ll be there as well -- IF the platform holders provide the APIs necessary for us to access player stats and data.

Given the popularity of mobile devices, are there any plans to track achievements associated with iOS’s Game Center?

Apple doesn’t make that kind of gameplay data available, unfortunately. If it did, we’d certainly consider it. Write your congressional representative and/or Tim Cook.

Raptr does a great job of tracking achievements and time, is it possible or likely that we may see unified leaderboards in the future so that Xbox and PlayStation owners can compare high scores across platforms?

There are definitely some more things we could do related to leaderboards, and we’re looking into it. In terms of comparing cross-platform, though, that’s problematic, because Sony doesn’t make gameplay time available, just Trophies earned. Maybe in the next generation, though! Write your congressional representative and/or Kaz Hirai.

The reward system is a really fun feature on the Raptr site, but many of them are limited to smaller, indie-type games and free to player browser titles. Do you see yourselves adding more "substantial" rewards in the future? If you were not constrained by limitations (publisher intervention, finances, licensing, etc) what rewards would you make available?

Well, we’ve had a lot of pretty substantial rewards. When we gave away free copies of Dead Island a few weeks ago we had so many people trying to get it that our site crashed, and we have a pretty robust site infrastructure, so...damn. But if we could give away any reward...free Steam press accounts for everyone! And combination washer/dryers. Jet skis.

There’s obviously a lot of traffic and information coming into Raptr. Are there any interesting statistics that you’ve found surprising over the past couple of years?

Yes, hardcore gamers really love Candy Crush Saga. That’s one thing. You know who you are, and you know what you did. But seriously, people spent more time playing Candy Crush Saga in March than they did in Skyrim, or Minecraft on PC, or StarCraft II, or Diablo III and World of Tanks and Halo: Reach combined!

Also, we’ve learned that there’s a reason why the companies that are the most respected and loved are also among the most successful. People might think, oh, Valve’s so great for putting out the map creator in Portal 2. And they are great, true, but not only did playtime of existing Portal 2 owners go up when the map creator launched, as you’d expect, but the number of new users playing the game for the first time spiked by over 2000%! Similarly, every time Riot puts up a big prize purse for a League of Legends tournament, it’s not just existing users who play more, but new users start playing the game. Treating the community well actually pays for itself, and then some.

We would like to thank Demian Linn for sitting down and talking with us about Raptr. Make sure to check it out @ Raptr.com

The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.