GPS Business News recently had a conversation about location-based gaming with Maarten Noyons, founder of the International Mobile Gaming Awards (IMGA) and Pia Vuohelainen, partner manager at NAVTEQ.
Last year IMGA introduced the "Best Real World Game" award, a prize for location-based games. This category was a clear success and is continued this year. Digital map maker NAVTEQ will return as a judge to the 6th IMGA as well as handing out the "Best Real World Game" award at the IMGA awards ceremony during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February 2010.
GPS Business News: Maarten, you are the founder of the International Mobile Gaming Awards, can you give me a bit of background about it and tell me how you came to location-based gaming?
Maarten Noyons: When I started the International Mobile Gaming Awards in 2004 what was big was 3D in mobile games. As a matter of fact Autodesk was a major sponsor at that time. Then in 2006 we gave the “Grand Prix” and the “Most Innovative Game Award” to Triangler, an innovative mobile game that was using location as the key element of its gameplay. Basically two teams of 100 players play a two-hour match in a city or rural area. The goal of the game is to enclose enemy players with 2000-meter equilateral triangles formed by you and your team buddies. This is a lot of fun to play.
Last year, for our 2008 awards [handed out at the Mobile World Congress in February 2009] we included a new category called “Best Real World Game” which was sponsored by NAVTEQ. German-based Urban Team won it with with the “Fastfoot-Challenge” game.
So, after five years, what I can tell you is that I believe location brings a real new dimension to mobile gaming. To be even more precise I think location is bringing its proper identity to mobile gaming.
GPS BN: And you Pia, what is your take on that trend from a map maker perspective?
Pia Vuohelainen: I’d like to add a bit of a wider perspective here. My idea is that we should probably talk about location-based entertainment rather than location-based gaming. Let me explain why. For example, there are dating services using location that integrate a gaming element and in the future we will see a lot of touristic applications that will leverage location and be played like games.
MN: Yes, this is true, I completely agree with you Pia. We should rename this category, this is much wider than typically understood. We haven’t really found a name yet even if “real world game” is a reasonable step towards it.
GPS BN: Even if there are more and more games leveraging location, it is still a very small niche, so how do you develop this market?
MN: In the one hand you need to challenge developers about the integration of location as a gameplay element. This is something we are doing with this “Real World Game” award. What we are looking for is the good ideas; I am therefore curious to see the entries for IMGA this year. I am expecting many projects from new iPhone developers.
In the other hand you also need to find players. In most cases these location-based games are multi-players which means to make it fun you need to gather a large number of players in one place. Therefore a gaming festival makes a lot of sense. This is what we are working on now. We have set a partnership with the city of Marseille (France) that will be hosting the “Playground Festival” in September 2010.