Is iBeacon’s future in mobile gaming?


By Jon Robinson Comment


When Apple activated iBeacon back in December, the retail world instantly saw the huge potential of millions of smartphone users with the ability to receive in-store mobile messaging via low-energy Bluetooth transmitters.

But is there a way for the tech to also enhance the world of mobile gaming?

The Tap Lab, designers of the location-based empire-building game, Tiny Tycoons, is already exploring the possibilities.

“We’ve been excited about iBeacon since launch, and as a location-based gaming company, there is a lot of opportunity for us to break down the front door and provide unique experiences for players,” says Kabir Hemrajani, VP Product, The Tap Lab. “To date, a lot of the apps that have been coming out that leverage the iBeacon are just pushing the advertising with local coupons and discounts, but we think there is a tremendous opportunity to actually use iBeacon to drive meaningful gameplay.

“We think there are huge implications here, and we also think that gaming will be one of the core drivers for adoption, as tends to be the case with new technology.”

The Tap Lab tested iBeacon notifications recently at a local Starbucks, demonstrating in the video above how the technology would work to enable you to purchase the real-life location in Tiny Tycoons.

iBeacon_300“iBeacon uses a new technology called Bluetooth LE, and the concept behind Bluetooth LE is that it’s extremely low power,” explains Hemrajani. “If you had GPS on, your phone will probably die before the end of the day, but the deal with Bluetooth LE is that if you have it turned on, you can keep it going. The devices that use Bluetooth LE, you can let them run two years on a single watch battery, so it would be very low cost for stores to add and maintain.

“The other thing that is great about it is it is very proximity based. It knows when you are 2 meters away from it or 20 meters, so instead of a general thing where we know you’re in an area and we have a geo-fence of 100 meters, I can really say that I know where you are. I know you are at a Starbucks, you just walked into the door, and now I know that you are sitting at one of the tables in the corner. So it gives you this really fine-grained location, it works both indoors and outdoors, and it works on extremely low power.”

For Tiny Tycoons, that would mean enabling the developers to open up gameplay to include everything a player sees in front of them in real life.

“When you walk through the front door of a Starbucks, you would get a notification that this Starbucks is owned by this player and it costs this much in the game,” says Dave Bisceglia, Co-Founder & CEO, The Tap Lab. “As soon as you get that notification, you can jump into the game and make an offer to purchase that property from the player. It’s a meaningful notification that’s tied to the game.

“Best of all, these notifications are really intelligent. Rather than spamming players when they walk into every property on planet Earth, we can actually look and say, hey, this player has interacted with this brand before, this player has interacted with this category of property before, so when you enter one of those places and we get that ping from iBeacon, that’s when we send you that meaningful notification.”

Then once the player walks out of the location, The Tap Lab can actually delete the notification off of your device.

“I don’t want to turn on Bluetooth to get spammed by deals,” says Hemrajani. I want to turn it on because I enjoy playing games, and I think people will enjoy playing games that utilize this tech, especially since the tech works not only between devices and stores, but works in multiplayer between devices. As soon as you open up the game, it knows you are near other players. It knows when your friend is in the same room with you and how to connect you to a game. Having to search for you or your device’s name, that just all goes away.”

Adds Bisceglia: “The consensus is that this is going to be huge for retail with Apple already rolling this out in many of their Apple stores, but we think there is a tremendous opportunity across all categories and properties in the near future, with gaming leading the way.”