GameToyz Pairs Casual Games and Real Prizes on Facebook

Do Facebook users want to play an app that has a casual game portal as a foundation, with another layer of gaming built on top? The portal concept seems to have worked for MindJolt Games, which literally ported popular Flash titles from the web into its own app. We’ve seen other developers, like Big Fish, add more sophisticated gaming layers on top.

Strategic Design Network is taking its shot with GameToyz, a portal that includes a relatively simple gaming layer — competing to win real-world prizes.

The categories of games are fairly general, consisting of action, puzzle, dress-up, and even virtual space sorts of applications. Typically speaking, they are all very easy to learn and many, especially those distributed by Mochi Media, will actually be familiar to long time casual gamers.

Unfortunately, like any portal that has a wide variety of games within it, many are… less than quality. This ranges from poor game play, to cliché and overdone concepts, to horridly presented visuals. Thankfully, this doesn’t stretch across the board and there are just as many fun titles as there are otherwise. A particular favorite worth noting is Guardian Rock, from TorpedoLab, in which you guide a stone protector, who can only move in the direction you send him until something stops him, to destroy archeologists desecrating his resting place.

Within GameToyz, players are able to earn an in-game currency, simply named “Coins,” through various Coin Tournaments. This is actually the biggest highlight to be had for GameToyz, as by buying into tournaments, users are capable of taking home respectable amounts of coin, assuming they win (by getting the highest score), that they can then use on a variety of very high quality prizes.

Yes, prizes. Not virtual currency. Not virtual goods. Not membership benefits. Players can actually win significant rewards such as a $500 American Express gift card for 150,000 coins, a $10 Ultimate Game gift card for 3,000 coins, or even an Amazon Kindle or iPod Touch for 77,700 and 81,000 coins respectively. However, in order to redeem some of the latter, players must have “VIP Status” or “Super VIP Status” which requires users to Like, Bookmark, Subscribe for email notifications, and allow publishing, or pay about $10 respectively.

In addition to this particular catch, the other glaring issue is that there are very, very few games within the list of titles that allow players to actually earn coins. To that end, users are limited to playing games that they may not care about whatsoever. Essentially, this defeats the purpose of trying to have a wide variety of games that will appeal to multiple tastes and effectively drives a wedge between the meta-game and the Flash games. Since players may not be able to play their game(s) of choice for coins, they will either (a) only play what offers coins, just because it offers them, – which may led to boredom – or (b) completely ignore the meta concept entirely and play whatever they want to.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as users are still playing, and GameToyz does monetize with advertisements. Furthermore, you are capable of challenging friends, on any leaderboard enabled game, as another means to earn coins. Nevertheless, if those players can’t get their friends to play with them, then there isn’t much of a solution to the issue. Also, should the issue go unresolved the prospect of purchasing the currency begins to drop significantly.

Frankly, it’s hard to say that even the meta participants would purchase coins as the incentive to do so is very low. Yes, the prizes are good, but the point of having them redeemable is so one doesn’t have to pay real money for cool stuff. Moreover, the only other reason for spending is to buy extra “clicks” for some very basic, daily lottery games where players could win more coins.

As a brief aside, these lottery games themselves are a bit drab themselves. In one, all players do is click on one of six orbs, in the hopes that there is a reward under it. They get 10 tries. The other, is a map of the world in which they also get 10 clicks, in an attempt to uncover a “hidden treasure.” You could win up to 1000 coins as the maximum reward, but while the odds are one in six on the orbs, they don’t seem too much in the player’s favor on the latter; not with 10 clicks. They’re not particularly fun, but then again, we lost every time, but the bigger complaint is that there is no user feedback for losing – no “try again next time,” or anything. You either win or nothing happens (save for your click number going down).

Socially, GameToyz is about the same as most other meta-game applications. Most of the games have a leaderboard system built into them, so there is a level of competition, beyond tournaments, to be had while playing. Additionally, the app also comes with a respectable amount of achievements to earn and share, as well as a leaderboard for the meta concept itself, in the form of “Coin Winners.” Beyond this, it also merits mention that a few games also have cash tournaments, with cash prizes, but these feel even rarer than the Coin Tournaments.

Overall, GameToyz is an alright application as far as game portals go. It has a decent selection of quality, fun games as well as your typical collection of boring and mundane ones. The meta-game concept with the Coins is a great idea, and it ought to work fantastically well with the high quality rewards that can be redeemed, but there are just far too few games that can be played to earn said coins. Next to that, any other issues feel minor by comparison. The potential is there, but some cleaning up is required to flush it out.