Last week, Austin-based PopRox unveiled its upcoming city-builder Race 4 My Place, a game that will combine the established play mechanics of the genre with both real-world and cash prizes. The game’s being developed by Comangle, as well as U.K.-based studio Capricorn. PopRox CEO Mike Gramling sat down with us at GDC to discuss what players can expect to see in terms of both gameplay and rewards.
Real world prizes being offered to players is nothing new in the social games scene, but these are often limited to items like gift cards or discounts at brick-and-mortar businesses. With Race 4 My Place, players will be able to win said gift cards, airline tickets, movie tickets, and iPads, but the biggest reward will be significant cash prizes. The cash rewards come in two forms: weekly and “grand prize” drawings — planned to take place once every four months. With the weekly drawings PopRox will pay out $1,061 (the average monthly mortgage payment in the United States), while the grand prize drawing will give players the option to get a $200,000 mortgage payoff or a $100,000 cash prize.
As opposed to other social games, Gramling tells us Race 4 My Place will never ask for players to spend money on it. This is because of the aforementioned cash prizes. “We cannot charge a penny to our users because as soon as we do that it becomes online gambling,” he explains.
Instead, PopRox is working with branded partners, whom players are encouraged to interact with via in-game ads and placement promotion. Meanwhile, users will become eligible for the cash payouts when they reach certain milestones in Race 4 My Place. Since the first playable city will be Los Angeles, one example of this Gramling gives is building iconic structures like the Hollywood Sign. Each time a grand prize is given out, a new real-world city will become playable, and players will be able to speed-up their new town’s construction with the aid of their prior burgs.
When asked about why the game’s cash rewards are so focused on housing, Gramling reveals it’s due to his background as a real estate investor. Finding himself stuck with properties that were drastically affected during the 2008-2009 housing crisis here in the U.S., Gramling created a memory skill game that allowed people compete to win these houses.
Gramling tells us his company’s able to provide its rewards because it started out aiming to do something different, as well as its small size. “The big dogs can’t do what we’re doing without changing their business model or walking a very grey line. We can focus more on the game and your experience and figuring out how to make you interact more with our branded partners,” he says.
PopRox is currently funded by a “significant sum” of private investment equity. Race 4 My Place is about a month out from launching on Facebook (with a mobile version to come later), and PopRox also has two other games in development.
The first cash prize is expected to be doled out on Oct. 19 via the game’s Facebook app page.