Yahoo’s Mobile Apps Get Game in San Francisco

Games are the most popular type of mobile app, and to promote its own mail and other apps, Yahoo is putting a twist on mobile games. The company is set to launch a series of interactive outdoor touch-screen games placed in San Francisco bus shelters, and will egg on competition among Bay Area neighborhoods to score a free concert featuring OK Go.

The goal of the Yahoo Bus Stop Derby campaign is to promote four Yahoo mobile apps: Mail, Messenger, photo app Flickr, and sports scores and news app Sportacular. The company is calling the effort – which will run from November 22 through January 28, 2011 – part of its broader integrated marketing efforts for 2010. Yahoo launched its wide-reaching, 15-month “It’s Y!ou” branding campaign last September.

Picture a 72-inch LCD touch screen stationed in an outdoor bus shelter. Would-be bus riders can a choose a neighborhood from a drop-down menu and pick one of four games to play on the giant screen, each of which has a theme related to the app it’s intended to promote. A Yahoo blog page will post continually-updated scores displaying which neighborhoods are showing off the best skills.

A player in the Mission District, for instance, might test his instant messaging prowess by selecting “Chatter Scatter,” a game in which players attempt to retype as many instant messages as possible as the keyboard travels across the screen.

A Haight-Ashbury resident might prefer “Snap-Happy,” a 3-D puzzle game promoting Yahoo’s Flickr app, or the Yahoo Mail-themed “Incoming!” which tests players’ abilities to sort fast-flying e-mails into the correct folders. Players can choose single-player mode, or competitive mode to contribute to one neighborhood’s standings against other areas. The winning ‘hood will be treated to a concert featuring the band OK Go.

The “Sport-a-pult” game combines sports trivia questions with virtual athleticism, requiring players to maneuver the catapult-inspired sport-a-pult to hit the appropriate “answer block.”

Sportacular was launched in Q3 of this year for Android, iPhone, and iPad. The company also recently updated its Yahoo Messenger app for iPhone feauturing video chat capabilities.

During its Q3 earnings call, Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz hinted at new features for its mobile mail app. “Video mail – as you know, it’s a big driver of user engagement. Very soon we’ll launch our new mail beta. It has great new communication, social and photo features, and a lot more,” she said.

Yahoo is pushing its mail, IM, sports alerts, and photo apps; however, gaming apps are most popular, according to a September Nielsen Company report showing 61 percent of smartphone owners and 52 percent of feature phone owners use gaming apps. Twenty-four percent use sports apps and 18 percent use IM applications, the report said.

Yahoo partnered with ACNE Production, Clear Channel Outdoor, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, Obscura Digital, and the city of San Francisco to develop the campaign.

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