Please Stay Calm thinks location is key to mobile MMOs

The iPhone(s aapl) offers a wealth of zombie-related games, and for good reason; zombies are so popular the U.S. government recently tried to use them to raise awareness around the CDC and emergency preparedness. So while it makes sense that developer Massive Damage based its first game around a zombie infestation, it also stands to reason that they’d have to add in something unique to make sure their effort stood out from the crowd. That’s where location comes into play.

The game, a mobile massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) called Please Stay Calm, makes its debut today in the App Store, though only in Canada for now; Massive Damage is cutting its teeth in the Canadian market in preparation for an October U.S. launch. But the new game is worth a look no matter where you happen to live, because it uniquely combines location and personalization with tried and tested models of iPhone gaming success.

A unique twist on success

At its core, Please Stay Calm bears some strong similarities to games such as World War and Crime City. All the games use a store of energy that refreshes over time and can be spent to accomplish things or take action, like engage in combat, for example.

Please Stay Calm tweaks this, making it much more social through global in-game chat and a clever system whereby players (who take on the role of zombie apocalypse survivors) work together to fight off the undead threat. Also unique to Please Stay Calm is a strong focus on location; the game detects your real-life surroundings using the iPhone’s geolocation services, allowing you to set up a defensive bunker in your local Starbucks(s sbux), for instance.

Massive Damage CEO and Co-Founder Ken Seto told me that the “core of [the] game is centered on providing a truly local social experience.” He says that “people have an affinity for their favorite spots like cafes, bars and even their offices.”

The major appeal of Please Stay Calm, according to Seto, is that “being able to upgrade a real-life location like your office as the biggest baddest safehouse in your city is quite the feeling.” In this way, the location-based elements of Please Stay Calm sound a bit like Foursquare’s mayor mechanism, except that you invest virtual resources, as well as time in a specific place in order to take control of it.

Location: more than just background

Location is about more than just where you do your zombie-fighting in Please Stay Calm. Seto also points out that “characters you run into in the game are local, and you’ll see them in-game time and time again.” City- and safehouse-specific chat will also soon be added, in addition to the global chat option that currently exists. Also, players near your location, and even “non-player Foursquare users automatically help you out if you’re fighting off the zombie hordes in the same location as them,” Seto says.

It’s exactly the kind of rich use of location mechanics that Ryan Kim recently suggested might be the way forward for mobile location services, but in this case, those added value features are extending, rather than replacing the gaming paradigm.

Blended revenue models to suit different tastes

Please Stay Calm is free to play, but uses in-app purchases to allow players to enhance their experience if they wish. The freemium model employed by Massive Damage for this game is designed to “allow people to spend as little or as much as they like,” according to Seto.

The game’s in-app purchases allow you to buy credits, which can then be used to upgrade items and locations. You can also earn credits in other ways, too, and the game does a good job of striking the right balance so that players don’t feel obligated to spend money. There’s also a clever secondary means of earning credits; players can opt to view 10-second videos (essentially advertisements) in exchange for free credits. Seto says they went with this approach because it keeps the app ad-free, while also providing a way for those unwilling to spend on in-app purchases to experience some of the advantages of the game’s freemium model.

For mobile gamers looking for something that takes advantage of the unique abilities of smartphone devices, instead of just making compromises regarding what iOS lacks, Please Stay Calm is an ideal title. Massive Damage also promises episodic content packages, with more cinematics, missions, zombies and weapons coming in at least 10 free chapter upgrades, so the action shouldn’t get stale. Also, the game features tons of great-looking original artwork that gives Please Stay Calm its own unique feel. If you’re Canadian, check it out now. If you’re not, mark your calendars for October and try to be patient.