Blog Post

Booyah MMORPG App Aims to be “World of Lifecraft” for iPhone Owners

Booyah, which is available as a free iPhone (s aapl) app, is a new social MMORPG from a well-funded startup of the same name. But here’s the twist: Unlike all other online role-playing games (GigaOM Pro, sub required) , you don’t improve your character by performing fantastic otherworldly tasks, like looting dungeons or slaying hobgoblins — what gamers call “leveling up.” With Booyah, instead, you level up yourself, through real-world activities.

Get regular exercise and attain Booyah’s “God of the Gym” status, for example; jetset around the world enough, and Booyah dubs you a “Wondrous Wanderer.” These achievements are registered as badges in the Booyah virtual “room” on your iPhone, where your comically bulbous-headed avatar resides.

Booyah Achievements

The idea for Booyah originated when CEO Keith Lee and his two co-founders were developers at Blizzard Entertainment, creator of World of Warcraft, which now boasts nearly 12 million worldwide subscribers. That’s largely thanks to the addictiveness of WoW’s character-building and quests, which encourage people to obsessively play for years, just to earn virtual achievements for their Warcraft avatars. As he explained to me in a recent demo, Lee and his partners wondered if they could take the same design principles, which make Blizzard games so popular, and apply them to real life.

Booyah Room

So in Booyah, you self-report everyday activities in a variety of categories (work, shopping, etc.) just as you would on any other microblogging service; here, however, those updates are registered as progress points to your next achievement, and displayed in the “Booyah Society” social network (which can also be integrated with your Facebook or Twitter profiles.) This public aspect, the developers believe, will help keep your self-reporting honest. (If your Booyah friends notice that you’re exaggerating your accomplishments, they may call you on it.) Lee told me the company plans to eventually use iPhone functionality, like the GPS and accelerometer, to track player stats with more objective metrics.

Booyah Society Feed

At launch, Booyah is not without its shortcomings: The social functions could be more robust, and the emphasis on achievements over socialization may limit its appeal with women. Lee told me the company plans to add virtual currency, avatar-to-avatar interaction and other features, but without them, the growth rate may sputter. Still, it’s an appealing attempt to leverage MMORPG play aspects for benefits beyond games — a goal long-desired by developers and researchers alike. Booyah even has accomplishment ladders for cultural activities and social activism, so if players make a genuine effort to earn the game’s wide range of awards, they may also find themselves becoming more enriched, better-rounded human beings. Call it World of Lifecraft.

19 Responses to “Booyah MMORPG App Aims to be “World of Lifecraft” for iPhone Owners”

  1. I discovered Booyah late last night. The idea grabbed me, the iPhone application “Booyah Society” was free, and so I downloaded it straight away.

    I created a character, explored the interface, and quickly discovered that the only way to earn achievements was via Facebook or Twitter. Achievements looked like this:

    Food Flicker: Write 1 Food & Dining Post
    Industrious Imbiber: Receive 1 Like for a Food & Dining Post within 2 Days
    Gourmand of Impeccable Taste: Receive 8 Comments within 5 Days for a Food & Dining Post

    …and so on.


    Now, I’m not a big fan of Facebook because of the whole “social” thing. I’m also reluctant to engage Facebook because of the shocking loss of privacy that it encourages.

    But I wanted to explore Booyah, and so I created a dummy Facebook account, and then pointed Booyah Society at the account.

    In short order I had ground through all the “Write 1” and “Write 3” and “Write 10” posts for each of the achievement categories (using real content, not dummy posts), and I had earned a respectable 36/108 achievements. The remaining achievements were all “Receive 1 Like” or “Receive 10 Likes” or “Receive 1 Comment” or “Receive 8 Comments”.

    And there I was stuck. Booyah Society is unavoidably Facebook, and unavoidably linked to having Facer friends. You simply cannot play past this point without having at least several Facers marking up your entries with Likes and Comments. No, you cannot do it yourself; I tried. The Booyah Society application correctly deduces that a Like or Comment from your own account doesn’t count towards your achievement.

    So much for Booyah.

    What I was hoping for was something a bit more real-world, and a bit less Facebook. I’d anticipated that the Booyah achievements would be something like:

    Reach an Exercise Personal Best
    Make a New Recipe for a Friend
    Watch a Movie at the Theater on Opening Night
    Visit a New Country
    Try a New Sport

    …and so on. But they’re not. Every single achievement is about posting to (or receiving feedback from) Facebook or Twitter, with nothing more specific than a topic. Sure, you can write a post about making a new recipe. But you could also post “I like carrots”, and call that a food post achievement.

    The big trouble is this: you cannot play the Booyah game unless you post on Facebook or Twitter. It’s social-centric, not real world centric.

    This is fine for Twits and Facers. But it’s not so good for the more antisocial gamer. The “game of real world achievements” idea is great, but the Booyah implementation is flawed, at least for me. Add in achievements that aren’t slaved to Facebook, and that are a bit more specific with regards to the real world, and Booyah will be a winner.

    Oh, and some PvP action would be nice, too.

    • Hi Tom,

      My name is Lexy Franklin and I am the Community Manager at Booyah. Thanks for your feedback! I’ve noticed your post on a couple of other forums and I wanted to respond here as well.

      At Booyah, we care deeply about the single user experience and we will continue to explore different forms of achievement in future releases. This version of Booyah Society is just the first step in a much larger vision. We really want to work with the community and hear its feedback and see where the app might grow. We would really love to hear more of your thoughts on achievements and validation. Please send any thoughts or feedback to [email protected]. I hope that you have a great night.


  2. I bet the guys who started it are too poor to fight for copyright, but has had a website with a VERY similar concept for like two or three years.

    • Hi Jessica,

      At Booyah, we started with the iPhone because we are very excited to utilize iPhone technology with the GPS and the 3D engine. Stay tuned for more platforms :)

  3. I’ll definitely try out the iphone app. I’ve also been interested in combining mmo applications with real-life activities.

    In particular, I’m one of the hosts for the DC chapter of Drinking Liberally as well as an aspiring iphone developer. I’ve been looking at how an mmo could help promote grass roots political events, as well as allow trusted users to set up restaurant, movies, and other weekend social events.

    If Lexy or the other Booyahers have looked at this I’d be very interested in your feedback.

  4. JDot29

    Copyright infringement? Never seen those pictures before in my life — whether it be WoW achievements or whatnot. I doubt a startup like that would screw themselves over on a couple SIMPLE pictures….

    • not that it really matters but yeah they do look like the ones valve has so the pic do look almost like them but hay i don’t really give a flying ****

    • Hi InfoMofo,

      My name is Lexy and I am the Community Manager at Booyah. While our co-founders did come from Blizzard, Booyah is a separate company and we are very excited about our first product. We would love you to try Booyah Society! Go to download Booyah Society for Free! We also welcome your feedback. Please send any comments or suggestions to [email protected]. Thanks! I hope you have a great day.


  5. That’s a great point, and one that the Booyah team spent quite some time studying. In our app, you can only unlock higher level achievements through social validation. If you post on Facebook that you went to Spain today, you’re friends will all call you out, and you won’t have a booyah moment :).

  6. won’t catch on. what works for blizzard and halo and other achievement-oriented games is the fact that they are in control of your achievements. self-reporting is a joke. i went to SPAIN today. oh ya? i went to JUPITER.