We catch up with Deepak Pathak, founder of Wewana:Play to know how the app is evolving.
In today’s heavily connected world of PlayStation Network, Steam and Xbox Live, it makes sense to be able to play with your friends, wherever they may be and whenever you want. But what if they’re not connected to their preferred system? What if you have to manually call or message friends to get online the old-fashioned way? Wewana:Play is looking to fix that issue by collating your gamer contacts and allowing you to contact them using your smartphone. Currently supporting Steam and Xbox Live, with PSN support on the way, Wewana:Play wants to make sure you’re never too far away from playing with the people you know best.
GamingBolt recently had a chance to speak to founder Deepak Pathak about his inspiration for the app, how it works and the overall success of the same.
"The Wewana:Play app solves a key problem for gamers and one which I have faced regularly myself. Sometimes after I’d get home from a long hard day at work, I’d just want to kick back, switch off from work and play a few games online."
Rashid Sayed: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how did you came up with the idea of WeWanna:Play?
Deepak Pathak: Well, I’m Deepak, the founder of Wewana:Play and have a history in video games as I used to own Video Game stores between the years 2003 to 2007. It was great until supermarkets decided to start selling under cost price, effectively killing all independent game stores. So I decided to go back to studying an MBA via UK, USA and Germany, which was an amazing experience.
It was whilst studying my final part of my MBA in Germany that I was headhunted for Europe’s largest retail organization and offered a position with the CEO as my mentor. That was a fantastic experience spending a few years running big business, but my heart was always in being my own boss. Inevitably I had to return to UK and attempt to make my mark with an idea that became Wewana:Play.
The Wewana:Play app solves a key problem for gamers and one which I have faced regularly myself. Sometimes after I’d get home from a long hard day at work, I’d just want to kick back, switch off from work and play a few games online.
I would turn on my console or PC and find none of my friends were actually online, so I’d spend up-to 15 minutes calling and texting them to get online… but because they were also quite busy, they could rarely drop what they were doing to join me.
This left me to play online with people who were either way better than me, so they would kick my butt with all the best weapons (never understood why games do that). When I did finally get better then them, opponents would go AWOL or leave the game, or even worse, I’d get matched with people who found it more fun to make up intimate stories of their imaginary relationships with my mom than actually play the game.
It was so frustrating that I’d throw away my headset, turn off my gaming device and simply stop playing. I would love to play online with my friends, as it’s both fun and social, but it’s such a hassle to organise that, so I simply give up.
That was the core inspiration behind Wewana:Play.
"User privacy is something we constantly talk about. Currently you can only connect with your friends, helping eradicate the majority of privacy issues."
Rashid Sayed: Tell us a little bit about the WeWanna:Play app along with unique features and how it surpasses traditional game session organizing.
Deepak Pathak: The app works across all gaming networks and is currently on Android, IOS, Blackberry and a browser based version, with a Windows app coming soon.
You simply find your friends on the app (or invite them!) and schedule games with them within a few clicks. We also have a really cool feature where if you use your Facebook ID, Xbox ID or Stream username, we automatically connect you with friends that are already on the app.
You simply tell the app what game you want to play and who you want to invite (all in just a few simple taps) and within seconds they will all receive notification on their smartphones; a device we all carry with us. Traditional methods involved multiple back and forth between players and hoping they log onto a forum to read messages. We eliminate that entire headache.
We want to make it super easy to connect with your friends and help you to discover friends who play the same games as you.
Users have taken well to the app and we are seeing increasing levels of growth. So much so that we have major gaming companies mentioning us with Capcom, Codemasters and others publically declaring their support.
Rashid Sayed: Wewana:Play seamlessly combines profiles from various gaming profiles to allow for easy access overall. Are there any concerns about security or privacy when it comes to syncing all profiles to one device?
Deepak Pathak: We work very closely with all the major platforms and they themselves ensure we conform to very stringent rules and regulations. They are also very concerned about their data, so by giving us access they have already put their stamp of approval on our methods.
User privacy is something we constantly talk about. Currently you can only connect with your friends, helping eradicate the majority of privacy issues. However there is a growing call from our user-base to be able to connect with complete strangers, but we will have many discussions with our users before we finalise how this will be done. We take privacy seriously, but we also want to ensure people play together more often. Ultimately we will always leave it to the user to decide what is and is not shared with others.
Rashid Sayed: How successful has it been since its release?
Deepak Pathak: The ‘good’ version of the app was released in later half of 2013 and we have seen 5-figure growth in user numbers since then. What is even more exciting however is that the app has been very successful in attracting attention from major publishers and gaming companies such as Virgin Gaming who will shortly be promoting us heavily to 2.7 million users.
There are many exciting collaboration we will be announcing in 2014 but until then, they are under wraps. Numerous major gaming companies are already discussing ways to work with us, so that alone has meant our first year has been a success, 2014 however is going to be astronomical. Especially considering all the new features we will be releasing (a minimum of one new major feature a month)
Rashid Sayed: Will there be a Windows Phone version of WeWanna:Play any time soon?
Deepak Pathak: Yes, Microsoft have been proactively helping us a lot with getting out an app out for very early 2014. In fact we did a one to one with them recently and their developer devices landed on our desks pre-Christmas. We are on it!
"The app currently has no allegiance to PS3 or Xbox 360, the tabs in our app are simply Xbox and PlayStation so some people are already making use of next gen multiplayer."
Rashid Sayed: The app awards achievements and points based on certain user activity. Is it dependent on just the actions the user takes on the app or is it somehow tied to gameplay?
Deepak Pathak: At this point it is based on actions within the app alongside rating your friends give you after gaming events (They can rate your ‘Reliability’, ‘Fun Factor’ and ‘Ability’. In due time it will include elements related to your actual gameplay too, but we will make some exciting announcements about this during early 2014.
Rashid Sayed: What is the inspiration behind keeping the app free?
Deepak Pathak: The core of any social network is making it as easier as possible for people to join. Having the app as a paid application would have worked against us, so we decided very early on to always have the app available for free. We will even be releasing an API soon which will allow talented individuals to build even more great tools for our user base, helping us to keep costs down and grow our toolset fast.
Rashid Sayed: What can you tell us about the business model? You must surely have a paid app with extra set of features in development =)
Deepak Pathak: We do not have plans for a paid version just yet. There are a large number of features we will be bringing to the app in 2014 including group game buying facilities (where companies reduce prices if a number of your friends buy at the same time) and many features that you can use in-game and not just when planning your game time.
The facility to allow users to notify each other of ‘price drops’ from major gaming retailers has been welcomed by our users, as they will continuously find ways to save money. It will be powered by the users but in turn allow us to offset any features which would otherwise make us a paid app (We would simply insert our affiliate ID’s making no change to what the user actually pays but helps us earn a small commission from each purchase to help fund our app). A win-win for all as user find games at cheaper prices then they would alone and by simply purchasing through our links they help us too. This feature will go into live beta during January 2014.
The real business model will become abundantly clear when we make an announcement with our partners in early 2014, but rest assured, we are gamers ourselves and will always ensure we focus on a great user experience for our users. We are building an app that we love to use ourselves and coming from an independent video store owner background, you can be assured I love to create atmosphere and a great service and not simply profits (although naturally, we have to make sure we eat!).
Rashid Sayed: Do you have any plans to extend the app for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One? With the next-generation of consoles having released and multiplayer being bigger than ever, how will WeWanna:Play change to accommodate the same?
Deepak Pathak: The app currently has no allegiance to PS3 or Xbox 360, the tabs in our app are simply Xbox and PlayStation so some people are already making use of next gen multiplayer.
As you can appreciate the next gen consoles are just out and therefore there are constant updates to their code as they attempt to iron out issues. Once those issues have been fully ironed out, we will be working closely with both parties to bring some cool, deeply integrated features to our app. We will be announcing some of these incredible services in the first quarter of 2014. I personally incredibly excited about one of them and can’t wait to see it live.
Rashid Sayed: What new updates can we look forward to in the app in the coming months?
Deepak Pathak: Hummm, now which ones am I allowed to tell you about! I’ll tell you about the community features as these will be the ones you’ll be seeing first.
Within a few weeks you will be seeing a cool feature which will allow you to notify friends of cool gaming deals. These may be price drops at some of your favorite gaming retailers or deals your friends have found, which in turn you want to share with your own particular circle of friends. It will give you a chance to save money on all the games you want to buy, but also create a level of fun as none of us know how long these deals will last, so it may be a case of ‘you snooze, you lose!’
Other community features include the listing of gaming events. We want people not only to play games but to come together as gamers too. We will help show you which events are taking place in your local area and let you know which friends will also be there. We want to encourage gamers to get together more often both online and offline.
As I mentioned there will be a minimum of 12 new major features in 2014, the deals is just one of them. February and March will really show you where the app is heading… but I can’t say much more yet, sorry! (You have to become one of our Ambassadors to get the inside scope!)
"2014 Is really going to be a powerful year for us and we will be collaborating with so many major parties. But we are at heart gamers, so we will always be listening to you, the gamer and trying to help your gaming because just that little bit more fun."
Rashid Sayed: Thus far, which segment has the app been most popular with? PlayStation, PC or Xbox users? Have you noticed any next-gen players adopting the app in the past month or so?
Since then we have noticed a massive uptake in console-based users too. So much so, that Playstation is now our leading platform by user uptake, however it is very closely followed by Xbox and PC so they will probably change again next month!
Interestingly we initially believed our key audience would be younger gamers (a misconception perhaps from the people I used to have longer conversations with in my gaming store). However the vast majority of gamers are actually over 18 (worldwide statistics suggest boys under the age of 18 make up less then 15% of the gaming market) and something we are noticing clearly in our userbase and gaming clubs that are supporting us.
Rashid Sayed: The last major update happened in June. When is the next update happening and what kind of features have you planned for the same?
Deepak Pathak: We have actively been working on a new backend structure to the app to allow for faster updates. We are almost complete with that so we will be seeing multiple new updates in 2014 (the first of which will be released in January).
We do however have a rigorous testing schedule, where we try to break new features internally first, then give it to our ambassadors to play with for a few weeks before making them go public. So even though there have been no public updates yet, there are many features on my version of the app that I would love to show fans in person! (Or find/become an Ambassador to test all our new features).
Rashid Sayed: With Sony releasing their own PS4 app, how do you plan to keep WeWanna:Play unique and relevant to the audience?
Deepak Pathak: Our key differentiator is that we are across ALL gaming networks. Individual gaming company app are great, but they will always be ring fenced into a particular genre or console.
We are not fighting for that so we feel no threat from these apps. In fact many of these companies have been approaching us to see how we can work together. We can help them expand their audience whilst giving their users an expanding array of tools to keep them coming back.
It’s not about completing with such apps, it’s about finding ways we can all compliment each other. We want people to game together and so do they. Perfect scenario for finding alignment.
Rashid Sayed: Since the app is community based, how do you keep the app free from trolls?
Deepak Pathak: I may have mentioned this a few times but we have a group of volunteers called ‘Ambassadors’ who help promote us simply for the love of what we are trying to do. They help create a great vibe on our Twitter and Facebook. So far we have never has any issues with trolls on these networks.
Our app also is currently restricted to events with friends so we never need to monitor or get involved with conversations. We do realise that this will change when events are opened up to general players you may not know. However, we will work closely with our growing army of ambassadors to give them effective tools in fighting the troll. Maybe a ‘Magic Sword of Destiny’ or something epic of that nature.
Rashid Sayed: Is there anything else you want to tell us about the app?
Deepak Pathak: We are a small young company trying to do great things. We have had an incredibly tough year where we worked very hard to prove ourselves and somehow, as if by magic, we got the attention of the major players who have started to really support us well.
None of this would have happened without the support of people like Tripwire Interactive, who promote us constantly as they feel it’s a great tool for their users. It also would not have happened without the support of our users. We salute you all for believing in us when we were nothing but an idea and we applaud you greatly for helping us be in such a great position today.
2014 Is really going to be a powerful year for us and we will be collaborating with so many major parties. But we are at heart gamers, so we will always be listening to you, the gamer and trying to help your gaming because just that little bit more fun.
I hope you give us you continued support and look forward to writing something incredible in our 2014 review.