Monday, September 12, 2011

Location, the Next Big Thing for Social Games

Many smartphone apps come with location services to tailor users’ experiences to what’s around them. The Yelp app, for example, shows users all the top user-rated shops and restaurants using augmented-reality through the use of the phone’s camera and location service. Games, it seems, will be the next big thing to utilize the location service features on smartphones.

Currently, popular games such as ‘Words with Friends’ allow users to either play with people in their social networks or a random stranger from anywhere in the world with the game open. The next step according to Shalini Verma, principal analyst at research firm Gartner, is that location and context will "creep" into social game apps on mobile devices. These features will allow players to find and play against people nearby.

In an early form of games integrated with location services we see a partnership between Nokia and Rovio, publishers of the wildly popular Angry Birds games. The partnership saw Rovio creating a special version of Angry Birds that required Nokia C7 device users to find each other and “tap” their devices together in order to unlock hidden levels in the game.

Allison Luong, managing director of Pearl Research, said that content discovery for location-based games can be a big headache for users, as these games can also be time-consuming for gamers as they have to make an effort to check into as many locations as possible to earn rewards. Peter Vesterbacka, chief marketing officer at Rovio, agrees that “it is important to deliver a compelling experience in order to draw users on to such games platforms. This will be new for many people, so we have to both introduce the concept and wow them with the experience.”

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