In its simplest form, Foursquare turns real life into a game. If you don’t know the format, it’s relatively easy to understand; at a rudimentary level it is a mobile application designed to help users explore cities, and combines social networking elements with an achievements system.
The map-based app’s current three million users can level up with a visit to a particular restaurant or landmark, and dominate a virtual underworld stretched over real world towns and cities as they carry out their day-to-day activities.
In many ways Foursquare is an embodiment of the increasingly popular concept of gamification.
It’s an easy term to turn one’s nose up at, but behind the excess of syllables is a process that has the potential to embrace vast new audiences. Applying the theory and mechanics of gameplay to non-gaming experiences could become increasingly important for studios looking to diversify their work and up the number of sectors from which they draw revenue.
Foursquare is today forming a bold template for that future, and with a significant userbase already enthralled by its work, is undeniably a Game Changer.
Hip to be Square
Foursquare founders Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai sketched out the first draft for their shared idea on a kitchen table in New York in 2008, and today base their business in the city’s iconic Village Voice building, where a team of 30 reside.
With over 15,000 venues already experimenting with running deals through Foursquare, the social networking app has proved very popular with businesses, and is gathering pace as more get on board.
The ‘game’ is also proving itself as a worthy platform for external developers, and already courts a number of titles built using the Foursquare API. Designed for studios large and small, the API not only caters for the creation of meta-games built through the existing Foursquare platform, but lets developers monitor the data generated by the app’s community.
The API also lets creators retrieve player check-in history using a system where feeds are available in RSS, KML and iCal formats.
Already a number of games, plug-ins and mobile tools exist built in the API, but Foursquare’s creators have not drawn a line under the platform yet, and are welcoming their industry contemporaries to help craft the definitive version of the developer interface.
Foursquare’s innovative spin on the alternate reality game not only offers a unique and customer-friendly experience in a sphere dominated by notoriously inaccessible titles, but provides developers with a distinct alternative to the overcrowded platforms offered by web and specific mobile devices.
Presently the installed userbase of Foursquare has a limited range of apps to chose from, meaning studios still have a good chance of making a hit on the platform. And with Foursquare available across iPhone, Android, Palm, Blackberry and other devices, the potential for an expanding audience is quite staggering.
Forward thinking, developer-empathetic and happy to step outside the boundaries of what defines the industry, Foursquare is every bit a Game Changer.