GeoGuessr spins into a global competition

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The Future. GeoGuessr, originally a pastime for bored homebound users, has transformed into a competitive platform for showcasing encyclopedic knowledge of global geography through analyzing Google Street View images. Although GeoGuessr is undergoing some growing pains, its ability to connect people (especially with an in-person World Cup that went down last week) may make it more than a pandemic fad.

Earth, at your fingertips
GeoGuessr has gamified Google Street View.

  • Although it’s been around since 2013, the game took off during the pandemic, giving people (especially high school kids) a fun way to feel like they were anywhere but stuck inside their homes.
  • The numbers say it all: in 2019, the game only had 10 million users and $500,000 in revenue. It now has 65 million users and made $18 million last year.
  • It’s also made some of its top players (like Rainbolt and Alok) internet famous, amassing huge TikTok followings from videos showing a clairvoyance-like ability to determine remote locations and hosting Battle Royales on YouTube.

But as GeoGuessr has grown, so has its desire to level up. That means the company wants to transition from a subscription-based gaming platform to something that has more of a direct social element. It introduced (err, required) cartoon avatars for user profiles, which players can pay to upgrade with new gear and special items.

The silly-looking avatars and push for Fortnite-like microtransactions turned off a lot of veteran players — who are key to the company because they drive 80% of the company’s revenue and make most of the playable maps.

It’s a reminder that angering your core users to find new ones may not be the best strategy.


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