More Mobile & More Social Gaming

Guest Post by Todd Marks, CEO viaPlace

Historically, games were always a social activity.  This began to shift in the 1970s, when arcade games became prevalent and with the introduction of PCs and game consoles, game play became a largely an individual experience.

Today, powered by technology advances and prevalence of social websites like Facebook, digital gaming is reintroducing the social experience into gaming and masses are embracing the shift.  AdWeek’s Mike Shields recently posited that the widespread adoption of social gaming is behind the demise of the soap opera, noting, “When Zynga… arrived on the scene in 2007, both All My Children and One Life to Live were averaging a 1.9 rating among women 25-54.  By 2011 the two shows were averaging 1.3 and 1.4 ratings respectively in that key viewer group. The drop is even steeper for other demographics.”

The newest trend is that digital social gaming allows users to digitize traditional games from the physical world and enhance the social nature of the games by leveraging mobile devices.

Our company, viaPlace, has built a framework to deliver Location Based Services, Augmented Reality, and Social Gaming to mobile applications.  We recently released “TAG”, a game of elimination that has traditionally been played across college campuses using low-tech devices like water guns. Players compete to find and “tag” assassination targets until there is only one player remaining. viaPlace transformed “TAG” into a high-tech game leveraging mobile devices using their digital cameras for the “tag shot.”

Within the game, players also utilize the foursquare check-in API to broadcast their current location at set intervals to help assassins hone in on their targets.  However, this is not just used to seek out potential Targets to “tag.”  By using a Game Wall that aggregates all player activity, locations and comments, TAG increases social engagement across all players both within the game, and in the real world.


Figure 1: Smartphone Usage Leading to a Revolution in Social Gaming

Source: viaPlace


The thirst for social mobile gaming is evident in the growing popularity of mobile games and of the platforms that support them.

Flurry, a mobile application analytics engine, reported in February that 26 million unique users play social mobile games more than 25 minutes a day on average.


Figure 2: Games Dominate iPad Apps

Source: Flurry


Additionally, mobile gaming networks such as OpenFeint enhance mobile games by providing social components via leaderboards and connecting gamers over the Internet.  Last month the network surpassed 73 million registered users, adding new users at a rate of over 4 million per month.  The company currently has over 4,000 combined titles for iPhone and Android including some of the best-selling mobile games of all time, such as Rovio’s Angry Birds which alone recently crossed 100 million downloads.

The biggest reason social gaming has leapt to mobile platforms is because the technology is finally there to support it, providing a better experience than the previous platforms.  Smartphones, in addition to mobile Internet connectivity, now include capabilities such as Augmented Reality, Location Based Services, Near Field Communication, Face Time Communication and Gyroscopic Everything, which have opened the door to a host of newer and cooler games users can play.   Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO, recently pointed out that Smartphone utilities are “Augmenting Humanity” with global mobile traffic growing 260% in 2010.

– Guest Post by Todd Marks, CEO viaPlace



Jack Dorsey Returns to Twitter, Ev Williams Focusing On His Next Big Thing







Six months after turning over the Twitter CEO reigns to Dick Costolo, Ev Williams is becoming a part-time executive at the company that he co-founded five years ago.


Jack Dorsey, who co-founded Twitter with Ev is stepping in to take over product.  Dorsey is tasked with making the user experience more intuitive and useful for average users.  For users that have crossed the initial chasm and been able to figure out Twitter, the experience becomes incredibly powerful and sticky, however as we have previously mentioned, the company has a tremendous opportunity to drive value by improving the on-boarding experience, such that a higher percentage of visitors/initial site registrations turn into active users.  As Twitter converts a higher percentage of registered users into active users, the platform will become increasingly more valuable to its users, and more pricey to advertisers.


To accomplish this task, Dorsey indicates that he will refocus the product on providing value to the majority of the user base that utilize Twitter to consume, rather than to create content by tweeting.  Dorsey believes that the best aspect of Twitter is that it allows users to follow events in real-time, saying, ”That’s the value, not the brand ‘Twitter’… We need to refocus on that value.”


While we generally applaud the return of founders to their companies with their context and passion, we prefer them to return as full time employees when they take over major roles.  Dorsey will continue to also be CEO of Square, the rapidly growing smart phone credit card processor.  Twitter needs help, and the more mindshare it gets from Dorsey, the better.





Why Is Curtis Granderson Trending on Twitter?


One of our favorite aspects of Twitter is the persistent “Trending” module that lets you see what’s trending in the world.  That’s how a lot people now find out when someone famous passed (e.g. Elizabeth Taylor), or somebody does something special (e.g. Celtic Ray Allen surpassing Reggie Miller for most career 3-pointers).


So when we saw Yankee Centerfielder Curtis Granderson trending, we assumed he had hit a grand slam or achieved some other kind of epic athletic achievement.  In fact, all Curtis had done was walk to the plate for his first At Bat of the season.  But behind the scenes, Granderson’s handlers leveraged one of the hottest trends in social media to give Granderson additional social media cred.


With 70 million views on YouTube in the last month, 13-year old Rebecca Black became a social media phenomenon with her hit, “Friday”.  And when the song was played as Granderson’s theme music as he approached the plate, the Twitterverse went wild.


It didn’t take long for us to find the hilarious video on YouTube of Granderson searching for his perfect song.  At the end of the video, when Granderson finally hears “Friday”, he begins to sob, because he’s finally found his song.

The coup de grace for us was when we read in the paper the next day that Granderson had in fact never even heard of the song.  His handlers had in fact picked the song recently because of the intense global interest, and layered it in to the video far after the actual video was shot.


In our view, this was per social media genius.

@BronxZooCobra Has Its Charlie Sheen Moment

After escaping on Monday, the Bronx Zoo Cobra established the @BronxZoosCobra feed and amassed over 220K twitter followers in one week, attracting the massive following by tweeting gems like:








Hey @piersmorgan, @jack and @biz, What does a snake have to do to get this account verified?

  • Does anyone know if the Whole Foods in Columbus Circle sells organic mice?
  • “Dear @CharlieSheen, know what’s better than tiger’s blood? Cobra venom. #winning #snakeonthetown Also I’m 20 inches long. Just sayin’.”).


Despite being found, The Bronx Zoo Cobra continues to tweet.