Since we've been following the urban game phenom for awhile now, (Pac-Manhattan, Uncle Roy All Around) we decided to head over to downtown San Francisco last weekend to check out the 3-year-old Urban Challenge game — officially renamed this year as the Verizon Wireless Urban Challenge, due to Verizon's kind offering up of the corporate teat. As with all corporate sponsorship, Verizon's financial adoption of the Urban Challenge makes for better tech and savvier marketing but also adds that whiff of in-your-face shameless corporate promotion. But hey, what's the harm in a little branding, right?
So this year for a $75 registration fee, Verizon supplied every contestant with an LG VX6000 camera phone, which each team of 2 uses to take a picture of themselves at each of the 12 different locations around the city. Teams then use the phone to email those pictures to Urban Challenge HQ. The phones are also used to receive text message hints and can make unlimited calls to any sources to gain information about clues or directions around the city. We decided to test out the LG VX6000, so we snapped these pics and sent them to Engadget HQ — the resolution ain't so great, but not bad for a US-market camera phone. We also chatted with founder Kevin McCarthy,(top photo) who admitted that Urban Challenge spawned from a game he created for his 12-year old daughter's birthday party. McCarthy says the huge potential market for urban games is yet untapped (said in true serial entrepreneurial fashion), and plans to expand Urban Challenge internationally as well as a soon-to-be-released Urban Challenge TV. Urban Challenge will be played in 21 cities this summer with roughly 10,000 participants, and the winners of each city compete at the nationals in an attempt to win $50,000. OK, so the whole thing sounds like one of those lame corporate events at your company's yearly retreat. Which isn't too far off the mark since Urban Challenge was also hired to create day events for companies like AT&T and GE.