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Q&A: How your games can find players, on recommendation site Product Hunt

Q&A: How your games can find players, on recommendation site Product Hunt

June 29, 2015 | By Christian Nutt

A few weeks ago, curated shopping startup Product Hunt, which allows users to "upvote" different products, opened up a game section. Headed by Polygon co-founder Russ Frushtick, who left the editorial site last year, it shows potential for being a way to connect players to games -- something that's badly needed by developers seeking receptive audiences against a background of tremendous noise on the open web.

Since its launch, the site -- which you can almost think of as a "Reddit for shopping," thanks to its upvote-based charts -- has hosted its first "ask me anything" session, with Monument Valley executive producer Daniel Gray.

Can sites like this supplant traditional editorial outlets? Will Product Hunt devolve into a simple popularity contest? And what can developers do? Gamasutra interviewed Frushtick about the site's potential.

Can you talk a bit more about your plans to allow game creators to directly participate in Product Hunt? 

Game creators (and creators in general) are a massive focus for Product Hunt. A big priority of the site is to let users directly interact with the people who make the games they love. We actually don't allow company accounts to sign into Product Hunt, which means when someone's labeled as a Maker, there's an actual, living person behind it. Video games, especially on the triple-A side, can be pretty faceless at times. We're trying to fight that and give devs more of a voice.

What's to stop it from being a popularity contest that's just like any other top-chart (generally organized by sales, granted) on the internet?

Early on we're expecting that a lot of well-known releases will get a lot of attention on the site, but the benefit of that is that it brings a broader interest to other games that may appear on the list on the same day. Limbo is obviously a pretty established indie, but Does Not Commute is another excellent title that's in today's top 10, as well. We're definitely hoping for a nice mix of known releases that people are really passionate about, alongside dark horse titles that maybe that haven't heard of. So far that seems to be happening.

What's the reasoning behind of having someone with a strong editorial background running the Games section at Product Hunt?

There are a few benefits, but the biggest one is that having connections within the games industry means I'm able to coordinate directly with game developers and publishers on AMAs, podcasts and other special events. Making sure these events are interesting to our community while also being beneficial to the developers that participate is extremely tricky, but it's a big priority.

As a Polygon co-founder, and someone who presumably believes in the validity of individuals recommending games, why'd you go to a community-focused site?

Well, Product Hunt is literally about individuals recommending games. It's not a massive mob. Sure, games get upvoted and discussed by large groups, but it all goes back to the person that initially recommended it (we call that person the Hunter). Recommending cool stuff was always my favorite part of working in games media, and being able to share that power with others in the Product Hunt community has been particularly awesome.

And thus... Is editorial something that's even necessary, to your view, in this era where the people can up-vote the games that they like best?

In addition to the special events/developer interactions I mentioned, and a daily email digest I produce that goes out to registered users, Product Hunt requires some oversight to ensure that the core tenets are upheld. Specifically that it remains a place for people to find out about cool stuff they've never heard of before.

Granted, there are certainly going to be titles that have a broad familiarity, but you have to remember that are audience is not exclusively made up of hardcore gamers, so even a game like Limbo (obviously a major indie success) will end up reaching a new audience.

And that's not to mention the smaller indies that get bubbled up, as well. A totally unknown game probably won't make it to the top of Product Hunt Games every single day, but our hope is that we'll definitely help the world discover these titles that haven't had much exposure yet.

I poked through some game pages and noted they had links to some but not necessarily all of the marketplaces and/or platforms that support them. Do you have any policies around this? Can devs add their preferred option?

Our platforms/marketplace listings are pretty buggy right now (we're still in beta). Our next priority is making these a lot easier for devs and users to add whichever links they want. Don't have a timeframe, but it's next on the list.

You spoke in your blog of a desire to help indies with discoverability, which is great -- and needed. But there are no guarantees, right? Can you do anything, as the head of the Games section, to shape its direction? Or does that all come from the community?

Yeah, there are a few things I can do. I have full editorial control over our games email digest, which I can use to feature releases that strike my fancy or AMAs that I think deserve extra attention (some of which I'll coordinate myself). We also plan on having more internally produced content in the future, which will shine a more focused light on specific releases. But, in the end, Product Hunt is always a community-based site, and their feedback is tremendously important to determine how the site will grow.

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