Chromaroma has bowled me over

Lara O’Reilly is Marketing Week’s digital and telecoms specialist and here she gives her own view on what companies from Apple to Zynga are up to in the wired world of the web.

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A new digital game launched earlier this week that aims to bridge the gap between Foursquare and board game Risk.

While I’m not sure there had even been the need to draw a comparison between the two, I’m more than excited about trying Chromaroma for myself.

Chromaroma, launched in collaboration with the Greater London Authority, is an online multiplayer game that uses Oyster Cards and Boris Bike hire keys to make the irksome London commute competitive.

Players work in teams to complete missions and achieve points while travelling around the capital. Missions can include getting off a stop early or receiving points for biking like BoJo instead of taking the bus. Users can then track their progress when they get home on the Chromaroma website.

Mudlark, the makers of the game, say they are also considering sponsorship options. I guess that means a retail brand could divert Chromaroma players to routes that bypass their stores, or the Emirates could instruct users to visit the Arsenal stadium (which, as a Gooner, I would highly recommend) for example.

Whether brands get involved or not, the launch of the Chromaroma game seems like a definite marketing win for the GLA and TfL as it will encourage digitally-minded Londoners to better explore their city.

The fact that Chromaroma doesn’t require you to remember your smartphone or even have to check-in proactively to play – just using your Oyster Card in the ordinary way – must be putting the frighteners onto the likes of Foursquare and its copycat services.

Not least because Chromaroma has a purpose: the gamification of the London commute through teamplay with those local to you (in terms of location and social graph).

Beyond the odd free coffee or 10% off voucher, what end goal does Foursquare serve? Sure, there’s the “gotta catch ’em all” element of collecting badges, but apparently that’s not what we users are meant to be interested in.

Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley told Josh Halliday at the Guardian earlier this week that we shouldn’t be thinking of Foursquare as a game, but if it’s not a game, what other purpose does it serve?

At the moment, Foursquare strikes me as a half-finished product; neither a game or a complete social media tool or even a travel guide. It’s too impersonal to be either of the three. It’s a perfect showing off tool, but I can’t think of any users getting truly involved with the app.

Chromaroma strikes me as something far more exciting and with scale I can see it becoming a very exciting London-centric treasure.

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