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Social Gaming: Conspicuous Consumption is Back thanks to Barcode Hero

Social Gaming: Conspicuous Consumption is Back thanks to Barcode Hero

Barcode Hero App on the iPhone What Foursquare and Yelp did for visits to local business, restaurants and tourist attractions, Barcode Hero is doing for, well, just about everything else. The smartphone app developed by Kima Labs has a simple premise: players scan barcodes of items they are interested in and are rewarded with points, badges and “dukedoms.” For example, you can walk into Best Buy and go through scanning netbooks and quickly become the duke of laptops. Or you can walk about scanning barcodes on iPods, Macbooks and iPhones and make yourself the duke of Apple products.
It’s a bit like creating a mix tape with the stuff that you buy. Your activities as a consumer help build your public profile for all of your friends to see. This notion has already gained somewhat of a foothold. Just like we used to align ourselves by genres of music—from punk and indie culture to the largesse of made-for-TV hip hop—camps have been emerging around products and brand names. This is embodied best by the “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” commercials with John Hodgman, but intense loyalties to operating systems, hardware manufacturers and software developers have already existed on bulletin boards, forums and online communities. Barcode Hero, in a way, speaks directly to this identity via alignment with consumer goods and a lifestyle informed by shopping habits.
While this type of self and social discovery has already proven successful for entertainment purposes, the marketing and commerce applications are obvious. Concurrently to racking up points and winning titles, users are also submitting valuable data about their likes, dislikes, preferences and demographics. Meanwhile, there are various opportunities for product promotion. The same “special offers” model that’s used for Foursquare and Yelp could work well for enticing players to seek out a product and hold it in their hands. But perhaps more critical is the incentives for recommending and reviewing items. Players receive extra points for recommending products to their friends, which could potentially be a breakthrough for online and offline marketing. Studies show that shoppers are far more willing to trust the endorsements of someone they know rather than an aggregate or anonymous user review—and Barcode Hero has directly harnessed a way to cultivate such personal recommendations. Barcode Hero, and products like it, are still nascent—but they are receiving buzz from all the right parties. Kima Labs announced that it has raised $770,000 in seed money from angel investors from the likes of Amazon.com, Google, Facebook and Wal-Mart. And the Apple App Store has already featured Barcode Hero, which means it the app may be poised to reach critical mass.
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