The race to become the hot location-based gaming service is red hot right now. Foursquare and Gowalla dominate the headlines, but another iPhone app, MyTown, has managed to rocket past them in usage in a little over a month with little fanfare. Today, the service has some 500,000 users, co-founder Keith Lee tells us. That puts it far ahead of either of the two more well-covered apps.
So how did MyTown manage to do that? There are a few reasons, but the main one may be the background of the creators. Lee along with his co-founders Brian Morrisroe and Sam Christiansen all have extensive experience in the gaming industry. In fact, all three did significant work for Blizzard Entertainment for a number of years, serving in key roles to build the Diablo and World of Warcraft franchises. From there, they decided to take their expertise to form their own company, Booyah (parent of MyTown), and work on location-based mobile gaming.
MyTown began really as more of an experiment for Booyah, Lee tells us. But the fact that usage has been skyrocketing led the team to work quickly to build a new version, 2.0, which should launch sometime next week, we’re told. Aside from the aforementioned 500,000 users, MyTown has seen some 31 million check-ins and 2.1 million unique locations created. They’re seeing about six check-ins per second now, Lee says. By comparison, Foursquare just noted that it was recently seeing one check-in per second.
The idea is similar to both Foursquare and Gowalla, in that it’s a location-based game you play to accumulate both virtual properties and goods. But again, the emphasis here is heavily on the gaming aspect. For example, in MyTown you actually buy properties with virtual currency. And when other users visit, they pay you rent. It’s sort of like Monopoly, but potentially more interesting because of the real-world element and the fact that rents fluctuate based on how popular an actual property is.
But none of that really answers how MyTown gained so much usage in such a short amount of time. That likely comes down to the fact that Apple featured the app for two weeks shortly after its launch. At one point, they were the seventh most popular free app in the App Store. From there, Booyah kept its foot on the gas with some viral marketing and cross-promotion. Word of mouth played a big role as well, Lee says.
Booyah was finance by Kleiner Perkins’ iFund, which was set up to fund iPhone apps. They also raised a second $5 million round this past September to bring their total funding to just under $10 million. Find MyTown in the App Store here.