London goes live on Foursquare – get ready for the madness

BREAKING: Location-based game Foursquare has just added London to it’s roster of cities. The news that the startup (which turns a city into one big game for users via an iPhone app) was poised to hit the biggest city outside the US came out on the company’s Twitter feed two days ago. Granted it’s already live in Amsterdam (the only other non-US city) but London is an order of magnitude larger. Paris is supposedly next on their list.

Foursquare is a location-based social network presented as a game where you “check in” at a location when you are out, thus turning the mobile app into a guide to the city and way to meet people. There is also a loyalty store card element.

I’m going to make a rash prediction about Foursquare in London, and particularly the Brit reaction: Either it will be a smash hit or it will fail miserably.

Brits have taken to points-based games on Facebook. But when it comes to location, most of the time, Londoners are more interested in piling into the nearest pub than worrying about who is the “mayor” of a particular physical space.
I’ve also been trying out Gowalla, which is similar. Now, since I have 12,00 followers on Twitter I thought I might find at least a few members there, but in fact I found hardly any. So whether Foursquare can beat this or not remains to be seen, but since they prep-populate their service with locations you can own, this may give them a head start. [Update: I just tried finding Twitter friends on Foursquare – sure enough, I recognised only three people in London. Still, it’s only just launched].

It will be interesting to see how other local location-based players like Rummble will react to this move. They already have Tremors which ranks places by the number of Tweets coming out of a location, but this is not the same as a “game” in the way Foursquare is in terms of collecting points. IN that sense it may well lack virality.