The current crop of location-sharing services like Foursquare and Gowalla rely on very basic game mechanics to entice their users to check in at their favorite bars, restaurants and coffee shops. Just checking in, however, really isn't that exciting in the long run. SCVNGR, which got a major investment from Google Ventures earlier this year, is taking check-ins to the next level by adding additional game-like challenges to virtually every one of the 20 million places in its database. For now, SCVNGR is only available in the U.S., but the company plans to expand internationally soon.

Challenges vs. Check-Ins

While you can just use SCVNGR to check in at your favorite coffee shop (worth 1 point), you will get extra points if you fulfill one of the missions that either the SCVNGR team or other players have created for this place. This could mean taking a picture of the location, for example (worth 2 points). Seth Priebatsch, the company's founder, also told us of another example, where customers at a local restaurant had to fold their burrito wrappers into elaborate origami sculptures (worth 5 points). According to Priebatch, most activities shouldn't take more than just a few seconds to complete.

For now, getting points on SCVNGR isn't tied to discounts, coupons or any other real-world bonuses. Instead, players will simply get to see how well they are doing in relation to their friends. Instead of just becoming the mayor of a given place, SCVNGR allows regulars to create their own challenges after they have checked in a few times.

SCVNGR is currently available for the iPhone and Android platforms.

From Enterprise to Consumer Product

Interestingly, today's consumer launch of SCVNGR is the second part of the company's roadmap. Since launching in late 2008, SCVNGR has already worked with over 600 companies, museums, universities, conferences and other organizations, including Princeton, MIT, The Smithsonian National Zoo, the City of Philadelphia and the U.S. Navy. These groups have used SCVNGR to create interactive experiences for their customers and visitors. Now that anybody will soon be able to create challenges, it will be interesting to watch how SCVNGR develops.