A top complaint of Foursquare has always been the “now what?” question. You check in, you are excited to learn you’ve earned a badge, you earn a few more, and eventually you’re left thinking “ok… and?”
That’s why 2011 was declared the year the checkin died. That’s why Foursquare revamped its entire app to become more of a socialized Yelp on steriods. “Explore” is now the company’s focus. The gaming part–badges, points, mayorships, are there, I guess, but they still fail to answer “now what?”
Even though Foursquare isn’t as focused on the gaming aspects of its app, it doesn’t make a location game a bad idea. Others have picked up where Foursquare left off. (And built on Foursquare’s location API, I might add.) Earlier this year Turf Geography Club launched its 8bit twee-meets-World of Warcraft app for real life turf wars. I called it iPhone Monopoly.
Now there’s a new player in the neighborhood with a similar idea: Landlord is an app out of London that’s also billing itself as a Monopoly for Foursquare. Rather than only focus on checking in and gaining control over properties through frequency of check-ins, Landlord uses fake money to buy, rent, or sell properties. Buy your home, or an unclaimed local bar, and anyone showing up and checking into your property must pay you rent. Once you accumulate enough rent money, you can start buying other properties. Popular venues lead to more rent, and quickly you’re on your way to slumlord notoriety.
Since launching this summer, a small but growing base of users from 39 different countries have on average played Landlord 10 to 15 times a day. Of course, this is a networks effect game. If I’m the first user in download Landlord in, say, Ecuador, I’m going to buy up my entire city and cheat the game. If I’m the second user in that situation, I wouldn’t be likely to stick around. I’m surprised the app rolled out internationally that fast.
Like Turf Geography Club plans to, Landlord already charges users to buy more coins (99 cents for 50). The company was surprised at how eager people are to buy them already, Founder James Shrager says.
Michael Jackson, ex-COO of Skype, is an advisor to the company. He called the game a “low attention, high retention” game.
So, Owner > Mayor. Foursquare keeps its gaming mechanics in place because it’s good for onboarding new users, Dennis Crowley said at a fireside chat at SXSW last year. But the company isn’t focusing on the gaming element–that’s just an aside to Foursquare’s big play–local data and local merchant services.
That’s why games like Turf and Landlord have sprung up–they don’t compete with Foursquare. They just want to take advantage of the location-based gaming demand that Foursquare is happy to neglect.