MyTown 2.0 Evolves The Gaming And Monetization Of Location

01_Loading_ProfileLast week, we wrote about MyTown, an iPhone application created by Booyah already had 500,000 users. That was significant because the app, which is a location-based game, was already well ahead of rivals Foursquare and Gowalla in terms of users — and it gained all those in just one month. Today, brings an entirely new version of the app to the App Store, MyTown 2.0.

With this new release, MyTown is further differentiating itself from the Foursquares and Gowallas of the world. While those are about check-ins that revolve around social aspects, MyTown is much more of a straight-up game. In fact, the best way to think about it may be Monopoly for the real world.

While the core idea is still to check-in to venues you happen to be at, the driving force behind doing that is to be able to “buy” those properties rather than tell your friends where you are. For example, if you check-in at a cafe, you can buy it, and then others who check-in there will pay you rent. The goal is to accumulate as many properties and as much money as possible. And version 2.0 makes all of that much more involved as the amount of gameplay has been raised from 5 or 6 hours all the way up to about 75 hours, Booyah CEO Keith Lee tells us.

Also with the 2.0 release, the entire look and feel of the app has been updated. On your main screen, you now get an ever-evolving view of all the properties you’ve collected. You also will see better stats for venues (how many people have checked-in, etc). And the number of building upgrades you can do has been taken from 5 to 10. You can also see what venues are trending, as well as their popularity rating based on elements such as number of check-ins.

04_Reward_ItemsBut most significantly, MyTown now has an in-app purchase element. This allows users to buy power-ups within the game that will make it easier for them to play. For example, one power-up allows you to automatically collect rent from your buildings. This is a key part of the game, but without this power-up, it has to be done manually, which is time consuming. You can also buy more property slots to allow you to expand your venue empire, among other things. Prices range from $0.99 all the way up to $9.99 for these in-app purchases.

Lee sees this as being a way for MyTown to good amount of money — certainly more than what in-game ads will bring in. He, along with some of his co-founders, come from a gaming background where they worked at places like Blizzard working on World of Warcraft, among other titles. That world has a robust virtual good ecosystem around it, and Lee expects that iPhone games will see the same.

There is also a virtual store built-in to MyTown 2.0. Here, users will be able to spend the virtual (fake) currency they collect in the game to buy various collectables. Lee recognizes that only a small percentage (something like 5%) of users will be willing to pay actual money for goods, so this virtual store is an important part of the game as well.

02_Property_StatsSomething else that MyTown is doing that is more closely aligned with Foursquare and Gowalla is real-world promotions. When you check-in to a venue or near one, you’ll be alerted if a special deal is nearby. For example, MyTown already has a deal in place with Quiznos for certain rotating specials. While these deals aren’t making MyTown any money yet (just as they’re not yet for Foursquare or Gowalla), Lee says that they’re continuing to sign up companies interested in this, and expect to turn on the money-making switch for this soon.

This heavy focus on the gaming aspect of location is certainly an interesting thing to watch, especially if virtual goods take off. Gowalla also places an emphasis on virtual goods, but is much less of a straight-up game than MyTown. Foursquare, meanwhile, is much more of a game you play for the social element with your friends (though you could certainly argue that badges are a virtual good).

Find MyTown 2.0 in the App Store here, as a free download.