Location game shows the value added

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 February, 2011, 12:00am

It's touted as a virtual game where you 'check in' online to the location where you are in real life.

But Jiepang, seen by many as a mainland clone of Foursquare, is more than that, according to Vincent Chan, head of Jiepang Hong Kong. He says Jiepang has gone one up on its US counterpart by successfully positioning itself as a social networking tool and not just a game.

Both Jiepang and Foursquare are location-based services that use the built-in GPS of smartphones to track where a user is located. If you are in a bar in Central, you can open a location-based service application and 'check in' to that location. This information can be shared with friends on a range of social media networks, such as Facebook.

The application awards users with virtual badges and you can become mayor of a location if you are the most frequent visitor. You can even win real prizes, such as discounts at restaurants and shops.

The popularity of these location-based games has been exponential.

Foursquare, which was launched in March 2009 by two developers in New York, had about 500,000 users within the first few months. By last December, it boasted six million users and was available in several languages.

'We hope to see the same kind of explosion for Jiepang,' Chan said at a recent conference in Hong Kong. He said Jiepang, which launched on the mainland in May, has 400,000 users, with four million check-ins made in 2010. Forty per cent of Jiepang users were in Beijing, 36 per cent in Shanghai and 13 per cent in Guangzhou.

Jiepang, which is available in simplified and traditional Chinese as well as English, expanded to Hong Kong and Taiwan in November and it now has 8,000 users in Hong Kong.

'Although we are only nine months old, a lot of businesses in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan have already taken us very seriously,' Chan said.

Jiepang is not the only location-based service game on the mainland, with competitors such as Qieke, Digu, Sifang and K.ai. But it differs from them as well as its US counterpart. Chan said: 'Jiepang positions itself as a tool for social communications, not just a game for fun. It is not to compete with other social networks. Instead, it could be the best and most efficient tool to synchronise people's real-life activities with their virtual social networks.'

Starbucks, which works with Foursquare in the US, recently teamed up with Jiepang on the mainland. 'When they agreed to work with us in China, we were very, very excited,' Chan said.

Jiepang also partnered Burger King in Beijing for a campaign last year that involved free food for users that checked in at the fast-foot outlet.

In Hong Kong, the marketing potential of Jiepang is also growing. The company has already teamed up on promotional campaigns with the likes of Ocean Park, Harbour City shopping mall, Sony PlayStation, and whisky makers Chivas. In the next few weeks it has projects lined up with sportswear brands Nike and Puma.

'We were lucky to find our niche early on and quickly become one of the most popular location-based services in the greater China region.'