Can the Game Genome Project be the Pandora of gaming?

“You shouldn’t have to search for games; they should come to you.”

So says Anu Nigam, founder and CEO of Best Apps Market, an Android app that recommends apps based on filtered traits. Now, in the ambitious Game Genome Project, Nigam’s company turns its focus to videogames.

The project is clearly modeled on the Music Genome Project that underlies the Pandora recommendation service, and Nigam expects people to use it in the same ways: either starting from a product they like to discover similar products or starting from a set of traits to venture into terra incognita. 

– – –

The aim is to draw out the nuances between broad categories such as “shooter” and “RPG.” To map the evolving genome of games, Nigam hired a team of 15 in San Francisco to play and “gene-mark” games using their own standardized terminology, creating a flexible and searchable filtration tool for the user. 

“The user can start from a game like Angry Birds and hit a tab to see all the trait-marks for that,” Nigam explains. Angry Birds would yield traits like swiping-and-tapping interactivity and 2D visual perspective. Gamers can then see other games that have the same characteristics.

Alternately, Nigam says, “You could start with 3D, then narrow it down to 3D that has vehicles, and then add shooting. You can save your searching genotype so you can come back to it, and as editors tag new games that match those traits, you’ll get notifications.” With hundreds of traits already mapped, the genome will only deepen over time: a trait for rotating the screen that was added for Burn the Rope, for example, can add genetic depth to extant games.

According to Nigam, Best Apps Market is on the verge of hitting 5 million users after launching last June. The company began by offering top app and game lists, but soon began to develop its own categories—“whole ontologies of how to categorize games,” says Nigam. “We started seeing that there were overlaps where a game fit in many categories, with developers combining genres and mechanics.”

The Game Genome Project may get licensed out to other platforms eventually, but the only way to access it next month when it launches will will be via Best Apps Market on the Android.

“The biggest power,” Nigam says, “is if we can break the need for people to go to an apps store ever again.”