SCVNGR gets $15M for augmented-reality game

Katie Gatto · January 4, 2011 · Short URL:

Check-in game lands big cash from Balderton Capital, Google Ventures, Highland Capital Partners

Augmented reality has come a long way from the days in 1968 when Harvard professor Ivan Sutherland created a virtual-reality helmet that was so heavy it was hardly wearable atop one's head. Today, your lightweight cell phone can help you augment your reality by creating games around the places you visit. And, the companies that are making your world more fun are raising big bucks to do it.

Cambridge, Mass.-based SCVNGR, the makers of a location-based game, raised $15 million in a round led by London-based Balderton Capital, which has $1.9 billion under management and investments in several gaming-related companies, such as Betfair, Big Fish Games, and CodeMasters. Other participants include Google Ventures and Highland Capital Partners. The funds will be used to expand the game's reach.

For those of you who have never played, SCVNGR (pronounced scavenger) is not a scavenger-hunt application. It is more like a series of short games that are based on your location. The games feature real-life rewards. Say you went to the local coffee shop for your daily jolt. When you get there, SCVNGR will tell you if there is a challenge to be completed. The tasks are usually simple, taking less than five minutes to complete. When you finish a reward follows. The reward could be a badge, or a discount for the shop. Currently, SCVNGR offers real-world rewards at over 12,000 locations.

To sign up for SCVNGR, it's free. Just go to their site to download the app, which is available on both the iPhone and Android-based phones.

If you have a business, you can sign up for a business account. These accounts range in price from free, for a very limited use, to $1080 a month, for unlimited use of the service. Use is limited, not by number of users, but by the number of challenges you can set. The free plan comes with five. Why have a business account? The tool helps shops to get people in the door, and gives them a reason to keep coming back. For bigger organizations, such as The Smithsonian, the games help to keep visitors engaged. Other large companies already using SCVNGR include The New England Patriots, The New York Times, Warner Brothers, Zip Car and Yale University.

SCVNGR is not alone in providing location-based games. Other companies that have game-related mechanics around locations include Foodspotting and Moglo.

Location-based games are also similar to check-in services, such as Foursquare. Both allow users to check-in to a real world locations, but services like Foursquare stop there, SCVNGR turns the check-in's into a game. Both provide an interesting chance to track user's habits, and target marketing.

SCVNGR  has yet to respond for request for comment.

(Images from SCVNGR)

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