How to find the right smartphone games for you

CNET talks to Hooked's CEO about getting relevant recommendations for games.


If you're anything like me, you'll spend a lot of time perusing an app store looking for an interesting new game, but then are unable to commit to one.

It's a problem for users looking for games, and it's a problem for developers who want their games to be found.

Hooked believes it has at least a partial solution. The app, which is only currently available on Android, acts as a recommendation engine, serving up not just the most popular games, but also games relevant to you. After installation, the app actually takes a look at what kind of apps are already on the phone, the time of day you search for apps, and a few other factors to give you a list of games it believes are the most relevant.

The more you use it, the smarter Hooked gets; it's similar to how Netflix's recommendations get sharper as you view more movies and TV shows.

"You don't have to do anything," said Prita Uppal, chief executive of Hooked. "We've spend a lot time figuring out key explicit and implicit data to create a list of what's right for you."

Hooked is just one of the ways the app community is trying to overcome the hurdle of discovery and the promotion of little known app. Not every company has the resources of Rovio or Electronic Arts, and can't afford to promote their games or pay for downloads, as some developers do. While the app is focused on games, there are easily broader applications for Hooked.

Presumably, if you have a lot of games on your phone, the app works best. I tried out Hooked on a test Android smartphone and got an eclectic mix of results, including "Mortal Kombat 9 Fatalities," which was just a list of the fatalities and how to perform them, and a racing game called "Speed Night." They weren't exactly games I would have chosen myself, and weren't exactly the greatest.

The app itself looks like an app store. When you click on install, it takes you to the Google Play store where you actually install the game.

The recommendations change based on when you access Hooked. Uppal told me that the program will offer up more puzzle and active games in the middle of the week, but will recommend more casual or laid back games over the weekend. The results are based on a lot of history and data devoted to app usage. Perhaps I would have more luck on another day.

If you're a little nervous about an app looking at the other apps in your phone, you're not alone. I expressed my concerns to Uppal, who said it isn't much different than a battery consumption app looking at the other apps to see which are active.

If you're comfortable with that explanation, Hooked offers a more personalized way of hunting through most-popular lists to find the best games, as many of those games may not appeal to that particular person.

"I think we're trying to dispel the problem with engagement," she said. "Just because you discover something doesn't mean you like it or want to use it."

She said a lot of developers waste their money trying to pay for downloads -- other games make money by getting its players to download other games for a fee. That's because the player downloading the game for a reward probably doesn't care about the other game, and would likely ignore or delete it.

While the app is only Android for now, it is has surprisingly chosen BlackBerry 10 as the next platform to run on. Her reasoning: the app is extremely easy to port over, and BlackBerry 10 and the PlayBook's compatibility with a lot of Android apps make it a smoother transition.

Uppal said the BlackBerry version of the app will launch in the next couple of weeks. As BlackBerry 10 smartphones are coming out until early next year, it will only be available on the PlayBook.

Eventually, Hooked will get around to iOS and Windows Phone, but Uppal said there were more hoops to jump through with Apple's platform.

For now, it doesn't appear that Hooked needs the extra help. The app already has had 3 million downloads since it launched in January. Uppal said the app has grown thanks to some promotion on Google Play and the support of some manufacturing partners.