A Social Network for Gamers: a Q&A With Sean Fee

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Not so long ago we stumbled across a social network for gamers called player.me. And we wrote about it.

Now, the concept wasn’t really new. Gaming networks have a way of evolving – cross-breeding between forums and gametrackers like Xfire to create lively digital communities. But we liked player.me, and we liked the idea of a social media-slash-portfolio that could track all those hours dumped into Quake, and we really liked how all-encompassing Player.me wanted to be, readily embracing almost every platform a gamer might be on.player.me-jaq

Fast-forward a year and Player.me has celebrated its first anniversary. It may not be the next Facebook, but it is building a thriving community –  and, unlike so many other wannabe social networks, it’s alive and kicking. And so I contacted Sean Fee, the CEO of Player.me. Would he be willing to answer a few questions via email? As it turns out, yes, he would.

Me: How would you define player.me?

Sean: We like to call Player.me a social platform for connecting the entire gaming ecosystem. We’re looking to create a place where Players, Teams, Groups, Games and Companies can discover and interact with each other based on their similar interests.

Me: How is player.me run and operated, from a human perspective?

Sean: We’re a small team (of 8, with a few in part time roles) which we like because it means we can move quickly on new features or directions we think might be right for the product. I’m CEO and I look after the whole operations, finance, product strategy and marketing side of things.

player.teamMak Sok is our CTO and manages the technology side of things, so he manages all dev work on our web app and is also heavily involved in managing the development of the mobile apps. Mak has Bogdan, Katie and Jamie working with him on the tech side and we have Steven and Joan on our mobile apps. I have Jamil helping out on marketing now and again.

Me: How did player.me come to be? 

Sean: A few of us were in a bar in Koh Samui, where we were working for another startup, and we were talking about gaming and how much growth it was experiencing. We’re all players (of different levels) and we were all kind of blown away with the popularity of Let’s Plays, Twitch and eSports. We also kind of agreed it was about time that a social platform that brought all of these amazing people and content together, focussed solely on gaming, was successful so we decided to try and build it. Our initial idea was for an About.me type product but just for gaming and then it evolved from there based on user feedback.

Me: What’s life like for the team?

Sean: Life for the team is great cos we all get to work on something we love! Well, at least I know it is for me and Mak. But seriously, we work extremely hard on this because we’re so passionate about it. We do an average of 12 hours a day, every day of the week! Sometimes we take a day off every couple of weeks.

To be honest, when we’re not working on it we miss it. It’s great to have people like Katie and Jamie join the team because they were users first and then became team members and they really have the same passion for the project as us, which is really rare to find.

Me: You’re essentially building a very niche social network. How do you approach the problem of getting users on board and gaining momentum? How do you structure it so that people want to sign up and use your service?

Sean: While we’ve focussed a little on growth, we focus way more on developing our product and really building something that people will love. Feedback so far has been incredibly positive but I honestly feel we’re just at the start of making Player.me really awesome. A lot of the features we’ve built so far are what we need for a social network, now it’s time to start adding the stuff that gives it a real gaming focus and really brings everyone together to discover and share new things. At the moment our growth is primarily word of mouth…we have spent very little money on marketing (nearly zero).

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It’s great to see our users sharing the site because the reality with products like this is that they become way more valuable the more people that are on them, so once we’re really happy with the product we’ll start to look at aggressive growth. I think it’s important we have our mobile apps when we look to do this.

Me: What about Raptr?

Sean: Raptr is great for game tracking but we really don’t feel it has the same focus as we do. It’s a really popular service and we’d like to tie in with them to improve both users experience. We don’t want to be the only destination players go to, we just want to be a starting point and then they can move on to other services from us based on what they’re really looking for. So, if they want in depth views of other players game achievements and tracking they can click through to their Raptr profile from Player.me.

Me: What are the biggest challenges that you’re facing right now?

Sean: Our biggest challenges at the moment really revolve around making sure we can expand our product without making it overly cluttered. We love simple products and beautiful design and we want to make sure we don’t lose that focus, whilst also trying to build out all the elements that will make Player.me amazing.

Our other main issue is the massive delay on our mobile apps, it’s a constant source of frustration for both us and our users but unfortunately we’re not able to throw money at the problem just yet, because we’re still bootstrapped…but hopefully that changes soon.

Me: Looking back at the past year of operations, what were the biggest mistakes you may have made?

Sean: I think we’ve had the benefit of multiple previous experiences that we’ve managed to minimise the mistakes to a certain extent but there have been a few.

One of the mistakes we made at one point was to take our focus slightly off the product and put it somewhere else and it showed in the amount of engagement we got. The product didn’t really improve for about a month or two and growth stagnated. Then we started to focus solely on the product again and our growth kicked in again and the product moved forward significantly. It’s so easy to get distracted but you can’t allow it cos it can be a startup killer.

Another mistake was a lack of focus on mobile in the early days, we’re mobile first guys so it was surprising we didn’t realise this was a perfect product for mobile until our users were literally demanding it non stop. It’s also important to manage expectations properly and we didn’t really do this because we’ve had multiple false starts on the mobile front.

Me: Looking to the future, what’s next for player.me?

Sean: Mobile, mobile, mobile! We are really eager to get our mobile product out and then it’s world domination! Nah, once we have version 1 of our mobile apps out we’ll be kind of happy. We have a few things on the web app to be added and then we’ll have our full launch in Q1 2015. We really want to start integrating groups, teams and brands into the Player.me ecosystem…we have loads of great features lined up for every potential player in the community!

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