The Tap Lab has raised $550,000 to finance mobile games that are layered on top of real-world locations. The idea is to create experiences that “extend beyond the edge of our screens and into reality.”

Investors include the founding team of Harmonix, Alex Rigopoulos and Eran Egozy, who are the creators of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Others include Google’s Don Dodge, Mike Dornbrook of Common Angels, and other angel financiers.

Cambridge, Mass.-based The Tap Lab has spent the last year building a real-world game engine, much like Red Robot Labs’ R2, for location-based games. The Tap Lab’s first release that will take advantage of this effort is TapCity 2, which launches this summer.


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Co-founders Dave Bisceglia and Ralph Shao started The Tap Lab in 2010 after graduating from Boston University in May 2009. The company was a member of the last graduating class of TechStars Boston. As part of that effort, they created their original TapCity multiplayer mobile game, where you build and defend a virtual city based on the places you visit in real life.

Much like the original Booyah game, it is a lot like playing Monopoly in the real world, where you can own various locations. TapCity 2 will let players virtually explore the entire world. Players earn points from completing tasks at the real locations and purchasing virtual versions of real products in those venues in the game.

“We believe there is so much more to location-based gaming beyond the check-­in,” Bisceglia, chief executive, said. “There is an enormous opportunity to create games that invite players to compete and collaborate in the real world.”

Dodge said he was interested because The Tap Lab is focused on mobile, social, local, and games. TapCity 2 won the South by Southwest AppCircus competition last month, and it will show off the new game at PAX East in Boston.

Rivals include Booyah, Red Robot Labs, Grey Area Labs, and PerBlue. The latter is launching its own new game this week dubbed Parallel Mafia.

“We think that location-based gaming is more interesting in the real world,” Bisceglia said in an interview with VentureBeat. “We are diving deeper by categorizing bars, restaurants, clubs and other places. We stylized a virtual venue and give players jobs based on what that place is.”

The company has five employees, and it plans on adding more. The Tap Lab is focusing on iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) for now. Bisceglia said that the original game and prototypes have taught the company what works and what doesn’t. The encouraging part was that the active users played the game for 25 minutes a day or more.

[Image credits: The Tap Lab and Kevin Rooney]

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