SCVNGR: Now Playing, Somewhere Near You!

A relative newcomer to smartphone location-based gaming, SCVNGR is taking the United States by storm and threatens to shake up the geo-location game market. Similar to games like Gowalla or Foursquare, players use their smartphones to check in at locations. Unlike anything else on the market, however, SCVNGR players are presented with location-specific “challenges” that they can complete to earn points.

SCVNGR tasks might be a riddle, a dare, a question, or more, and they are customized precisely for the location. For example, I checked in to my nearby police precinct (No, I was not in handcuffs), and, in addition to the usual “Say something here” functionality common to the other geo-location smartphone games, SCVNGR offered me a few tasks related to law enforcement. It asked me what my favorite constitutional amendment was (Duh, the Fifth!), and in “The Swords & Scales” challenge I was asked to pose as Lady Justice and upload the picture. (Hm, yes well, the zip ties were a problem.)

Originally SCVNGR focused on larger institutions, launching with games created by the US Army and Princeton University. Now, a year after launching, SCVNGR boasts an impressive partner list of over 600 institutions, including universities, museums, and retail stores. SCVNGR is not just a forward-facing game, it is also a development platform, allowing institutions to purchase a number of challenges to customize and then providing them with a web-based application to create challenges. This means that third-party adventure creators and team-building event consultants, like Scaventures, can also tie themselves into the incredibly accessible platform.

Here is a sampling of recent SCVNGR events:

  • Help Vince: a game for the New England Patriots where players complete SCVNGR challenges in the Boston area to unlock a riddle and help Vince Wilfork recover his stolen Super Bowl ring.
  • Dexter Game On at Comic-Con: Completing Dexter-themed challenges, recorded as “kills,” players could cash points in for Dexter swag.
  • The goSmithsonian Trek: Played out in July, participants visited nine Smithsonian museums and competed for an Apple iPad.
  • Inception: A series of challenges for the film involved unique tasks at the tallest buildings in the 100 largest cities in the United States and at movie theaters.

These are just a few of the time-sensitive SCVNGR-based campaigns that have played in the last month. In addition, there are the pervasive, always available challenges, like those in my city, with challenges created by major municipal tourist organizations and that ubiquitous Philadelphia institution, Wawa. SCVNGR has also added a rewards program for retail locations. Doing a challenge at a Journeys shoe store, for example, a player can rack up points and then cash them in for discounts.

SCVNGR is available for the iPhone and the Android, but for now, only US locations are available. There are two Twitter streams for the latest news: @SCVNGR_Events for events, and @SCVNGR for general game information.

Click here to read about SCVNGR at the New York Times.
Click here to read about SCVNGR at TechCrunch.
Click here to read about SCVNGR at VentureBeat.
Click here to read about SCVNGR at GigaOM.