Tap Lab Taps Into Virtual Reality, Real Distribution for New Game

Xconomy Boston — 

Attention, video game aficionados: the Boston-area gaming cluster has life. It’s been a pretty quiet year, but now companies are working on new games that make use of mobile devices and virtual reality—as well as new approaches for acquiring users.

We’re seeing virtual-reality approaches from veteran studios like Harmonix, but also from smaller outfits like The Tap Lab, Defective Studios, VirZoom, and Owlchemy Labs (now in Austin, TX). Today, The Tap Lab is rolling out a new game for iOS called Bigfoot Hunter. The premise is that you use your phone as a camera to try to snap pictures of the elusive Sasquatch in the great outdoors. There’s also a “photo booth” feature, whereby you can superimpose characters from the game onto real-world photos. (Some say the game has elements of Pokémon Snap and Duck Hunt.)

Bigfoot Hunter can be played on iPhones and iPads, but it’s also well suited for virtual-reality headsets like those from Google and Samsung, says The Tap Lab’s CEO and co-founder Dave Bisceglia. His team is working on additional camera games that make virtual reality more accessible—no extra hardware required—using mobile devices’ built-in sensors (accelerometers and gyroscopes) that let “players peer into a virtual world as if they were actually there,” he says.

The big challenge for any small studio is getting people to play its games. So, The Tap Lab worked with online publisher R2Games to bring Bigfoot Hunter to market. This is a relatively new trend in the past year: As paid acquisition of mobile users has become more expensive, Bisceglia says, “studios are now working with major publishers who already have the distribution power”—meaning existing user bases and bigger budgets. He adds that his company is also working with other content owners, such as TV networks and movie studios, to build out its games.

The Tap Lab previously released location-based mobile games such as Tiny Tycoons and Tap City. The 10-person company was founded in 2009 and has raised $2.4 million from investors, including Techstars, Accomplice, and the founders of Harmonix.