I recently picked up MyTown, a tracking app masquerading as a game. Now, I have a very distinct idea of what a game is, based on my lifetime as a gamer, and my time spent working in the games industry.
My definition of a game is:
- Has a call to action
- Has a defined challenge
- Has a defined benefit vs. challenge (eg. scoring)
- If Multi-player, provides a distinct mechanism for player vs. player
- Is fun (Although that is taste)
Outside of that, it's not a game. It might be a toy, but it's not a game.
Now back to MyTown, a free iPhone app where the whole call to action is to "Check-In" at businesses you frequent in order to get points and money. The app engages the GPS built -in to the phone to push advertising, and to give a bonus to points and money based on proximity to the business you are checking-in to. You level up through checking-in, you can buy businesses to collect rent, to make more money. Properties also collect rent, but it's based on a timer.
What this app lacks is the challenge necessary to make it a game, unless of course you are an agoraphobic and can't go to different businesses.
What this app is, is a tracking application with a cute GUI. Under the guise of a game, a player will build a list of frequented businesses, and in some cases, provide significant amounts of frequency/ use data. On top of that, there is a "What are you doing" comment box that provides extra points for giving a description of what you are doing there. Inexpensive consumer habit tracking - already working based on a new H&M partnership that has been penned for the game.
Go within 200 feet of an H&M, and get the ability to buy H&M branded items in game. Add on top of the partnership possibilities the ability to push advertising based on location, and this type of app can become a strong money maker - with potential research related revenue streams as well.
What doesn't sit well with me is that this "game" isn't up front with people regarding the data that they're donating, and that there really isn't a benefit for the player. If this app were a game, it would at least be a trade off, fun for data - even then I think the player loses out. There would at least be a benefit for the player.
While this product isn't very notable in any respect, it comes across as rather awkward and unfinished. What it could be used for, a framework for future apps/ games of this type is rather interesting. A game that could actively call a player to locations to meet new competitors, receive deals/discounts, or receive in game benefits... those could be powerful tools to make for a more immersive, rewarding game experience as well as a more effective advertising spend for certain types of advertisers.
It will be interesting to see if more apps like this show up.