How Location-Based Services Changed Social Games in Asia

[Editor’s note: PapayaMobile chief executive Si Shen shares her perspective on the importance of location for social gaming in Asia.]

As social gaming on mobile devices continues to grow throughout 2010, so will the number of applications offering location-based services. But will 2011 be the year that location-based social games take off in the U.S? With smartphone ownership continuing to expand, we’re presented with an opportunity to add location awareness into social games, adding unique experiences for users and creating new business models for developers.

To provide inspiration to U.S developers and to offer a glimpse of the possibilities that location-based services bring to social games, I’d like to share with you some unique insights into the Asian Market, particularly Japan, where location-based gaming has been popular for some years now.

The largest social gaming platform in Japan, Mobagetown of DeNA, was released in early 2006. China’s Tencent launched its mobile QQ with a gaming platform at the end of 2006. Although we see some U.S. developers starting to integrate location elements into mobile social games, the Asian market has a longer history of using location-based services in mobile social games.

The Japanese market has been experimenting with LBS mobile social games since 2005. One of the first location-based games, Colonial Living PLUS, was released in May 2005 by COLOPL. This game is a standalone LBS social game in which users build and maintain their cities. In mid-2010, it had about one million registered users, with 90 percent over the age of 20. The games are designed so that users have to go back in frequently to take care of their cities.

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