GPS Business News: How did you get started with location-based gaming?
Nick Baicoianu: I first started thinking about location-based games when iPhone OS 3.0 (which included an embeddable map component) was announced. It got me thinking about how best to utilize this powerful new feature and after a few iterations I arrived on the concept behind Turf Wars.
GPS BN: And what is your personal background?
NB: I graduated from university with a background in physics and business management. Since then I’ve been working in the consumer web space for the past 5 years, with a background in large-scale social networks and social applications. I’ve played multiplayer games since I first logged on to the internet, and had always been interested in the dynamics behind creating a large online community. In a way Turf Wars is the product of what I’ve learned, professionally and personally, for the past several years.
GPS BN: How big is your company?
NB: We're tightly-run company, with a small staff focused on the most critical aspects of running an online MMO.
NB: Turf Wars is centered around the control of territory (or "Turf") in the real world. Players claim turf, gaining an income from it and defending it against other players in the area. There's a heavy social element as well - players need to recruit members into their "mob" to gain more power, and can even form "vendettas" with other local players to take on the big players in their area. Turf in more crowded areas makes more income but is more susceptible to being taken over by competitors. Because of this the gameplay is highly variable depending on where you live and who's in your area, and a player in London may have a completely different experience than one in San Francisco or Hong Kong.
GPS BN: Your game does not require a very precise location accuracy, is Wi-Fi enough?
NB: We require a minimum accuracy of 5km to play Turf Wars, which Wi-Fi location (via Skyhook) almost always satisfies. About 25% of our player base (iPod Touch/iPad users) uses strictly Wi-Fi, and several of our biggest players are Wi-Fi only. So in a broader sense it depends on how you use location – in Turf Wars the location element is focused more on the location of turf rather than players. If you were working on an app which requires tracking movement around a city then Wi-Fi may not be sufficient.
GPS BN: Do you have some metrics you can reveal?
NB: Turf Wars recently passed the 25k player milestone and is growing every day. Most players are casual, while many log in dozens of times daily to check on their turf or run jobs. Players are distributed throughout the world; most are in English speaking countries, and we have also a great presence in several Asian countries as well.
GPS BN: The game is free and monetization comes with in-app purchases, so how does it work? Is it a sustainable business for you? How do you see this developing?
NB: Turf Wars can be played all the way through without paying, but if players want to gain an advantage they may purchase "point packs" which they can convert into money, weapons, etc. Monetization per player is comparable to many of the most popular social games and the location-based element certainly adds to this. Players are very protective of their favorite turf and are willing to pay money to keep it.