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I’m working on a project that required a database of video games (name, release date, box-art, etc.). Too much information to input manually, so we began looking for commercial offerings. There are two players in the field: Muze and AMG.

It’s quite obvious they realize they have this market cornered, their sales representatives are the most uncooperative people I’ve every tried to buy something from – AMG never even returned my two email requests nor my voicemail. But, hey, I’m just the code-monkey; once the money-guy got involved they started talking?barely.

After nearly two-and-a-half weeks of trying, we finally were able to get pricing information. Suffice it to say, our talk of ‘Let’s make something cool.’ drastically shifted to ‘How long can we possibly endure this expense?’ Doubt crept into our minds as to the ultimate feasibility of the project.

So we began to search for any possible alternatives. One interesting idea – querying Wikipedia – quickly lead to a very interesting possible solution: Freebase. A web service that offers programmatic access to a huge variety of data which they glean from Wikipedia, as well as other sources.

I have fallen head-over-heels in love with this service over the last week. Information from their database is released under the GNU Documentation License (same as Wikipedia). Their API is very well documented, has many examples, features a live query editor (check out the QueryBuilder for newbies), and they have ready-to-use example libraries for use with Python, PHP, and Perl. Queries to and from their system are formatted as JSON and accessed via a RESTful URL structure. Freebase, simply, could not be easier to use!

Freebase has listings for around 11,000 video games which doesn’t compare to the commercial vendor’s claim of 45,000. But they seem to have most recent releases which is exactly what I need. And hey, it’d be cheaper to pay a high-school gamer to do data entry into Freebase’s slick web interface than to pay those dick-heads at Muze or AMG.

For the folks behind Freebase, my hat is off to you!