Gowalla is Boring

January 20, 2010

gowallaA few weeks ago I got very excited about location-based social networking and decided to give one of the many mobile games a try.  I chose Gowalla because I had heard good things on the blogs, the website looked nice, and it worked well on the iPhone.

Initially, I was hooked.  The app looks great on my phone and it was exciting to collect items through their virtual scavenger hunt and get stamps in my passport.  Unfortunately, the excitement was short-lived.  There are very few users in Kansas City and it appears as though the majority of the spots have been created by the same person.  A Gowalla employee, no doubt.  (You know who you are “Zanzibar Zanzibar.”)  It’s kind of like playing tag by yourself.  I see how this could be really fun if all of my friends were participating- but they’re not.  And it’s just not compelling enough to continue playing on my own.

Everyone knows the ultimate goal of location-based mobile games- to monetize the application and provide players with real-life benefits for online participation.  And the opportunities for marketers are very exciting.  But I feel like social networks are shark-like in nature.  They must keep moving forward or they’ll sink.  After a month of playing Gowalla I have nothing to show for it.  Sure, I have some stamps in my virtual passport, but nothing that provides a real sense of accomplishment (like Mafia Wars!) or a reason to keep playing.  Maybe I’ll start back up once they begin implementing more real-life value, like reviews of restaurants near me or a discount at the store across the street… but until then, I’m over it.

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