Designer Michael Tseng was one of Kickstarter’s early success stories. In April 2011, he raised a few thousand dollars in a few days for a mobile game, Turf.Turf promised to combine elements of Sim City, Mario, Monopoly and Foursquare and become the ultimate virtual reality mobile game.
Since then, a lot has happened. Turf lost a cofounder, early Zynga engineer Amanda Wixted. It moved into WeWork Labs SoHo. Tseng spent the next eight months perfecting the app, fine-tuning illustrations and rethinking features. Then it spent 4-5 months in private beta and closed a $600,000 seed round led by RRE.
Four days ago, Turf launched in the App Store and it seems like it was worth the wait. Tseng says the app has already generated 100,000 check-ins and the average user has checked in 3-5 times.
Unlike Foursquare, which is primarily used for locating friends, Turf is actually a game. Checking-in means winning trophies, unlocking new features, getting coins, advancing to new levels, and buying properties. The more times you check-in, the more likely you are to hold on to properties you acquire (and the less likely other players will be to steal them from you). Ultimately, users are battling for real local stores and buildings in a virtual turf war of their city.
And let’s face it, it’s way cooler to be Mayor of New York City, defending buildings you own from other players, than Mayor of Starbucks for which you may or may not get a discounted cup of coffee.
Of course, the 100,000 check-ins could just be an initial engagement spike. We asked Tseng if he saw a drop-off in checkins during Turf’s private beta. He said there was some after players beat Level 10. To prevent the drop off, Tseng is rolling out a release in the next 3-4 weeks that will extend the game and hopefully keep users engaged.
Turf has some of the best graphics we’ve ever seen on an iPhone app. But it does drain your phone’s battery life.
Here are some screenshots we took while playing yesterday. We managed to take control of Business Insider (we also added a floor to up its value).