Why games can work for travel brands: Traveler IQ, four years on

A fair amount of chatter at conferences these days is around the idea of adding some form of gaming into the online travel experience, as a way of engaging further with users.

The concept of gaming is typically spoken of in the same breath as monster hits such as the Facebook-based Farmville and Mafia Wars, both created by Zynga.

But while both of these are relatively new products, one of the first hugely successful, social media-led and Facebook-hosted games was a travel-related effort.

And now, over four years on since its launch, Traveler IQ still manages to attract hundreds of thousands of players every single month.

The game was a simple product created in 2007 by Travelpod, a travel blogging platform which been acquired by Expedia the year before and was now sat within the TripAdvisor stable of brands.

In short: users had to pinpoint the location of a city by planting flags on a map, getting higher scores for accuracy and speed. Each round got progressively harder in terms of the locations and length of time given to stick the flag on the interactive map.

Users were encouraged to register their scores, challenge their friends on Facebook and, most importantly, spread the word.

And that is pretty much what happened.

Travelpod became synonymous with the game, arguably more so than the other way round. The game became a true viral hit, leading the top application charts on Facebook for months at a time.

The games was talked about in the mainstream media and cited by education officials as a teaching resource.

Here are some stats, covering the period since its launch in the summer of 2007 to March 2011:

  • 4.75 million registered users.
  • 58.6 million games played.
  • Approximately 672 million total minutes played (around 1,278 years).
  • Translated into seven languages.
  • Embedded versions on 2,500 other websites.

In February this year, almost four years on since its launch, Traveler IQ is still going strong with 700,000 plays and 1.25 million views.

And, inevitably, a game with this kind of impact created a loyal following.

Travelpod founder and general manager Luc Levesque says the most addicted player completed over 70,000 games, with another 11 geography obsessed users having completed more than 10,000 rounds each.

Some fans even created videos to show users how to find some of the trickier locations in the most difficult levels at the end of the game, while almost 15,000 others created their own versions of the game.

So, a lesson from which to learn: while Farmville may be simplistic graphically, underneath the hood the game is actually quite complex in terms of its functionality and premise.

Traveler IQ, however, is simple at almost every level. And this is probably why, in those early days of Facebook, it achieved so much traction but still resonates with so many today.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.



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  2. Peter Olfe

    I could not agree more.
    Several years back a company, Limbo, had a very popular game: they awarded a prize to the lowest unique bidder on a product. It is more difficult than it sounds. In the end they found that brands would pay to have their product/service as the prize. Why? Because when you have people playing a game to win your prize, that’s all they think about – the product/service. Their surveys showed many of the players would go out and buy the product/service even when they lost.
    This type of game could work very well for the travel industry.
    If they don’t win the all expenses paid trip to Hawaii, they may just go anyway.

    Thought-provoking article!


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