INTERVIEW: The power of data-driven retail

Every retailer needs a unique selling point, and Green Man Gaming has one in PlayFire.

It’s a social networking site that collects information from consumers’ games, such as how far they have progressed and what titles they enjoy. It was acquired by Green Man Gaming back in July 2012, and is now a core part of the firm’s business.

We use data to help with our decision making to see what’s best to promote and who we might want to work with on campaigns and promotions,” explains the retailer’s EVP of marketing Darren Cairns.

We overlay the regular data that sites collect – such as browsing history – with PlayFire data. Anyone who signs up for PlayFire can connect their account with their Steam, Xbox Live or PSN account.

We will take that information and give more accurate and more relevant offers based on their gameplay behaviour, rather than what games they have looked at but not committed to, what they might have bought but not played for very long.”


It’s not just a case of the firm collecting information to help them sell, consumers are benefitting from this. By unlocking specific achievements, gamers receive PlayFire Rewards which includes credit to use on Green Man Gaming.

"That data is a valuable commodity, it’s a very personal to the gamer so we do ask full consent. We also reward them for getting that data over to us. That way there’s a value exchange. They are playing that game, and we’re tracking them, but there’s an upside for them, reducing the cost of their next game.”

As well as being of benefit to consumers, publishers are also seeing an upside. As Cairns said earlier, the data PlayFire collects is a potentially valuable commodity, with companies being able to structure deals based around the personal information the system yields.

We can be more relevant. If you get to achievement No.20 out of 25 in a game we can offer you the DLC at the right moment when you are playing game, when you are the right amount of the way through the game so it’s a more relevant offer,” says Cairns.

We can structure an offer for a publisher that is targetted specifically at certain players. There’s very
little wastage on behalf of the publisher.

They get relevant data that stops them advertising in other areas where they don’t know necessarily know who they are talking to. They develop a promotion that means we are getting the player the right offer at the right time.”


The retailer also has a very clear idea about the future of PlayFire.

One initiative we are working on is for publishers who have an episode of their franchise coming out. We get people playing earlier titles, and put rewards on them,”
says Cairns.

Data is the core of our business. When everyone asks us how are you different from other retailers, we say we are different because we analyse player’s behaviour, not just their playing habits.

He concludes: It’s a really interesting angle to come from and one which is definitely sparking the interest of the 350 publishers that we are speaking to.”

It works well for the larger publishers, as well as the smaller indie developers that we work with. The biggest problem they have is discoverability – how do you get on the front page of Steam, how do you get to the front page of a games retailer if you don’t know someone who knows someone who knows someone.

With PlayFire what we are doing is naturally finding people who will have a propensity to play their games. As a discovery mechanic for indies, as it is for the larger and mid-tier publishers, it is a very important way of getting your game out there to the right people.”

Darren Cairns will be speaking at Games Retail 2020 on the growth of the PC gaming market.

Games Retail 2020 is being held on September 16th at BAFTA.

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