Announcing Texthorse: Whitehorse’s First SMS Game

TexthorseI’m really pleased to be able to publicly announce a project that I’ve been working on with some partners for some time now.

It’s called Texthorse, and it’s a text-messaging treasure hunt that will take place for 5 weeks throughout the entire city of Whitehorse. We’re launching on Tuesday, November 27.

As many readers here know, for quite some time I’ve been interested in the potential creative and business opportunities that mobile telecommunications technologies offer.

To me, mobile today feels like the web felt back in 1994: full of explosive potential. But I think mobile contains more promise than even the pure web does today.

Mobile is an incredibly disruptive medium in the sense that it’s ubiquitous and so can have an effect anywhere and anytime. Leveraging that effectiveness is an interesting challenge, and it’s a challenge I’m hoping to engage with Texthorse.

First and foremost, Texthorse is a game. It’s supposed to be fun, both for the people who play it and for the businesses and organizations that get involved.

Texthorse will send players clues about the locations of game codes. Players who travel to the correct location and respond with the correct code will earn points. The first players to arrive at each location will always receive some form of free gift.

Some locations will offer players the opportunity to earn additional points by correctly answering a trivia question.

Meanwhile, we’re going to plant unannounced bonus codes in various locations throughout the city. If players notice them, they can text them in to Texthorse for bonus points.

At the end of Texthorse, the player with the most points wins. We are just now establishing the prizes for the players who end up in the top-10 point-scoring positions.

Secondly, however, Texthorse is a test of the local market’s responsiveness to this form of marketing. Yes, it is marketing. There’s no denying that Texthorse and other mobile efforts are inherently commercial. After all, they cost money to run and therefore must, at least, recoup their cost. (For the record, though, Texthorse is an experimental enterprise and we’re making no effort to recoup any associated costs.)

So how potentially beneficial is mobile marketing to local businesses, not-for-profits, and governments? Texthorse, in many ways, is a test to find that out.

Through Texthorse, with the delivery of a single text message game clue, we will direct dozens of game players to one café, restaurant, retail store, or government office in search of a code. The location we direct players to will be responsible for handling reception of the players and for distributing clues.

The questions are: how many players will respond to clues, and how quickly; and, how will businesses and organizations leverage the marketing opportunity provided by a likely brief, high-volume influx of people?

Of course, the other question is: will the marketing aspect of Texthorse sully the game aspect for players?

I don’t think so. Most players will probably be younger, roughly 13 to 24 years of age. This is a group of people who have grown up in the commercial spotlight. These are people who have had to filter commercial messages for most of their young lives. In that sense, they are savvy and intelligent and well able to discern messages that are of benefit to them versus those which simply seek to manipulate them. More to the point, they exist naturally in a commercialist landscape and have grown up learning how to navigate it.

That means, in a sense, that Texthorse’s core attribute of “fun” will have to carry through into each location’s reception of the players.

But, like I said, Texthorse is a grand experiment. If you’re reading this and you’re a business or organization that would like to get involved as a location in the treasure hunt, contact me privately. We still have some spaces left and I’d love to hear from you.

If you’d like to read more about or even play Texthorse, check out our page on Facebook. Be sure to become a fan of the page at Facebook. We’re only accepting 50 participants (due to budgetary restrictions) and we’ll be announcing the registration process to just page fans on Facebook.