My son and I just finished playing New Super Mario Bros. We’ve just reached World 7- we actually reached World 8 but had a painful save snafu (long story) and had to essentially start over. Anyway, playing Super Mario Bros reminded me of a conversation with someone I had met on my return trip from SXSW about the location wars between Gowalla and Foursquare. My planemate happened to be a highly regarded head of design at a well-known startup, and made a very astute observation about how the gameplay in Gowalla’s stamp, pin and items pickup experience had a better longevity rate than Foursquare’s badges of honor. He made the comparison of Gowalla with Oregon Trail against Foursquare’s Super Mario, where you’d reached the end of the eventual round by beating one of the “bosses” to get to the next level, what happens when you achieve all your badges? You wait until the next set of badges come to play. Or you stop playing.
Reviewing my own use of Gowalla and Foursquare, I realized then that I really stopped being interested in the gameplay of both apps. Since foursquare came out first, the game play of earning badges got me hooked as an early adopter, and then I eventually lost my addiction of mayorships (although it’s nice to observe that you still happen to be the mayor of le web in Paris – which of course, won’t last for very long once a certain boss sees this post…).
I did an unfair experiment with Gowalla when I decided to let Gowalla be my exclusive friend app, meaning I only friend people I knew, whereas foursquare I friended almost anyone that invited or friended me. I thought I would try to be a little more intimate with Gowalla, but after reviewing the gameplay and the user flow, I realize that Gowalla would have been more effective as a more openly social gameplay (particularly with the ability to drop and pick up items) geo-location app, and foursquare as a more intimate geo-location app. One of the more social connections I like about Gowalla is there integration with FaceBook, where updates seem more FB fitting.
With the social aspect of both applications, it seems that with foursquare, I find I’m more attracted to see where my friends are at and review the tips and todo’s more than Gowalla, whereas I feel Gowalla’s interface allows me to build friends online. Ironically, foursquare should have been my Facebook (with more intimate close friends and acquaintances) while Gowalla should have been my Twitter (openly social). I don’t know how I will play this out, but I’ll still continue to play with both, and perhaps try to give it some equal time since they each have their own distinctive gameplays. Maybe I should try to look for an Oregon Trail game to play, and see how I feel about that…