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With the rise of online gaming platforms and livestreaming, it has become easier than ever for friends and fans to connect through the power of online gaming. When it comes to building these online infrastructures, there are few developers more experienced than GameSparks. This UK and Irish founded company focuses on simplifying online services so developers, streamers, and players can focus on what’s most important: the games.
GameSparks got their start in mobile development back in 2013, helping developers create cross-platform social functions like leaderboards and messaging services for their games. After officially unveiling their platform at Gamescom 2013, they were named one of the “100 Companies Most Likely To Change The Industry” by Develop Magazine. After forming partnerships with the PlayStation Network and others, in 2016, they branched out even more and hosted a 12-hour game jam called SparksJam in support of the Ireland indie gaming scene.
GameSparks continued to grow, and earlier this year was acquired by Amazon Web Services where its team is working with Twitch to build extensions that simplify streamer-viewer engagement. “We’re helping game developers find new and innovative ways to deliver long lasting and engaging entertainment to players, streamers, and their viewers on Twitch,” said Shuichi Sekino, Senior Product Manager at GameSparks.
With all these partnerships and accolades, you might be asking yourself what exactly the GameSparks platform is. Sekino describes their product as “a service that provides customizable backend features and a serverless compute service to help developers maximize player engagement and generate more revenue from games.”
Put more simply, they provide the framework for a game’s online features so that the developers can concentrate on giving their players the best gameplay experience possible.
With the rise of Twitch streaming and Twitch extensions, GameSparks found a new way to put their speciality to use. They saw an opportunity to create leaderboards and online services for Twitch streamers much like the ones they already created for games.
“Twitch helps gamers find new ways to enjoy games,” said Sekino. “By using GameSparks, game developers can now directly harness the Twitch platform to build ‘Twitchful’ games that not only help streamers to engage and retain subscribers, but also transform them from viewers, to acquired players.”
One opportunity they saw was the Leaderboard extension, which they say is one of the simplest yet most useful means of social interaction in gaming. “For the leaderboard extension in particular, with any competitive sport or game, a key indicator for a player’s success is their standing in the game,” said Sekino. “Our goal was to make it easy for any game to deliver this information through an extension, so streamers of these games can more closely engage with their audiences.”
Their leaderboard extension quickly generated some exciting feedback from users who were enjoying the added interactivity with their viewers. “The ability to share more aspects of the game experience with viewers was recognized as a great tool to drive deeper engagement with audiences. These experiences provide viewers with more context for gameplay, enabling streamers to tell more exciting stories,“ said Sekino. “With the leaderboard extension, streamers saw the opportunity to set “goals” for their session, for example, climb 10 places in the leaderboard, and allow audiences to cheer for them as their progress updated dynamically.”
The Future of GameSparks
During Twitchcon Developer Day 2017, Sekino demoed a concept for an extension called MatchBroker built on the GameSparks platform. This extension would let streamers quickly and easily setup gaming sessions with their viewers, doing all the setup for them so they can enjoy the game.
With extensions like MatchBroker GameSparks hopes to go beyond the “passive-viewing” experience and break down the barriers between streamers and their viewers.
“Very soon you’ll see more interactive implementations to help directly create even more engaging experiences for viewers, and turn them into players,” said Sekino. “Our matchmaking feature can be used to enable streamers to organize, create and initiate game sessions with members of their audience. With this feature, viewers would be able to jump in a game session with their favourite streamers with the click on a button in Twitch.”
To learn more about GameSparks, check out their website.
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