SCVNGR, Battling Foursquare and Others, Looks to Stay “On Top of the World” After Facebook Fallout

8/24/10Follow @gthuang

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with the company to build customized “quests” and “treks” as a way to drive interaction, engagement, and visibility for corporations, colleges, museums, city governments, and other institutions with deep pockets. SCVNGR has more than 1,000 of these paying customers, including big sports teams like the New England Patriots, universities such as MIT and Tufts (350 colleges and counting), and museums such as the Smithsonian Institution (75 in total).

That’s probably why Priebatsch isn’t too worried about Facebook just yet. More interesting, perhaps, is what will become of SCVNGR’s competition with Foursquare. We’ve been hearing a fair bit about this rivalry from tech observers in the past few months. While SCVNGR insists it is very different from Foursquare because of its game layer, people have tended to lump the companies together, or at least compare them more—especially since SCVNGR has entered the consumer loyalty and rewards sector.

Priebatsch doesn’t mince words when it comes to Foursquare and its competitors—particularly in the wake of Facebook’s announcement. “If your value proposition is the check-in, you’re in trouble,” he says. “SCVNGR eclipses Gowalla and Foursquare,” he continues. “We positioned ourselves from day one to be about the challenge, not the check-in. To be about a game engine that creates real value. That’s why I’m happy today.” (Priebatsch thinks Booyah and Yelp are in a better position than Foursquare and Gowalla, because they are focused on gaming and consumer reviews, respectively, not on check-ins.)

As for how the competitive landscape will evolve, Priebatsch thinks Foursquare and Gowalla will either “integrate with Facebook and fend off their destruction for a while,” or not integrate and have to leave the party, he says. In any case, “if they’re going to survive, they’re going to copy us.”

I took that to mean check-in and rewards services will need more sophisticated game layers to hang their hat on now. Which is all pretty provocative stuff—and refreshingly candid, coming from a young, local tech founder. “It’s all a game,” he says. “What’s a game without competition?”

But back to reality for a minute. In talking to techies from Boston to Seattle, I’ve heard mixed reviews about SCVNGR’s consumer product. The criticisms range from people saying they’re “not impressed” and that the game “has a really long way to go,” to people saying that its social check-in feature … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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