Heyzap, an online network that lets gamers “check in” to games, has finally launched an app for the iPhone.
Heyzap is a little unusual because it’s a popular check-in application for games that first launched on Android devices before making its way to the iPhone store. Most applications seem to hit the iPhone App Store before they make it to other mobile application marketplaces. The app launched on the Android Marketplace in March and has been growing very quickly since.
The application is designed to help iPhone — and Android — users find new games on the App Store based on what games their friends are playing. The iPhone application is much like the Android application — its main landing page features a news feed that shows what games people have checked into recently and what badges they have picked up for their check-ins. Users can view the most popular games based on the number of people who have checked into them and can see “tips” that other Heyzap users have left for individual games.
The app checks what games users have recently played and allows them to check into those games after playing them rather than giving them an option to check into the game with a push notification. That’s unlike Apple’s existing social gaming layer, the Game Center, which sits on top of games and gives players a way to quickly check which of their friends are playing a game and set up games with them. That means the technology to do so is probably there, it just isn’t being used by Heyzap or it isn’t available to developers.
Though checking into games is part of the app’s core experience, it can be a little fickle. After playing a round of Plants vs. Zombies, I jumped out to check into it on Heyzap only to find that the app wasn’t in my list of recently played games. I tried playing the game again and still wasn’t able to find it on my list of recently played games, even after restarting the Heyzap app. Most of the games I tried — Lumines, Crayon Physics, Sonic the Hedgehog and Mirror’s Edge — did not work with the application. Though that’s because the game detection part of the application is very new and still has a few bugs to work out, Heyzap co-founder Jude Gomila said.
“You can still check in by looking for games in the feed and searching for the games,” Gomila said. “We just want to make this as seamless and perfect for users as possible.”
The application pulls data from an iPhone user’s contact book to find contacts on Heyzap automatically. As soon as I created an account and logged in (I didn’t connect with Facebook, which is one option for the app), I was already following five or so people who were using the application. It didn’t prompt me to browse the list of contacts, which is a little unfortunate because there are several hundred sensitive entries that I might not want the application automatically perusing and syncing up with its main servers. But for everyday users, the feature can be extremely useful because it’s one less thing to worry about when installing and signing up for a new service.
Heyzap users can earn badges for checking into games multiple times, much like other location-based service applications like Gowalla and Foursquare. The person who checks into a game the most becomes “the boss” of the game, though it isn’t immediately apparent what kind of perks come with that title other than bragging rights. (That, and the knowledge that all your followers now know you’re obsessed with flinging angry-looking birds at buildings and pigs.)
The company was founded in 2009 and is based in San Francisco, Calif. Its founders took the company through Y Combinator in the 2009 winter class. It has raised around $3.7 million to date from Union Square Ventures and other angel investors.
[Update: Heyzap co-founder Jude Gomila clarified a few things about the app’s automatic game detection system. I’ve added those comments to the story.]
We’ll be exploring the most disruptive game technologies and business models at our third annual GamesBeat 2011 conference, on July 12-13 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. It will focus on the disruptive trends in the mobile games market. GamesBeat is co-located with our MobileBeat 2011 conference this year. To register, click on this link. Sponsors can message us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To participate in our Who’s Got Game? contest for the best game startup, click on this link.
VB's research team is studying web-personalization... Chime in here, and we’ll share the results.