- Players are competing to guess locations based purely on data from Google Street View
- The Swedish browser game has piqued the interest of many new players and viewers recently
- Although making GeoGuessr a full-scale esport is difficult, small competitions have already been established
Since its release, the Swedish browser game GeoGuessr has turned from just a simple online curiosity one would show a friend, to a serious high-stakes game.
What Exactly Is GeoGuessr?
We’ve all toyed around with Google Street View, trying to find our house, or maybe “visiting and walking around” the streets of another city. But what if this was turned into a game where players are dropped in a random location and then, using context clues gleaned from the surrounding fauna, climate, billboards, and language, players have to find out where they are on a map as accurately as they can.
Well, this is the whole idea behind GeoGuessr, a Swedish game released in 2013 by IT professional Anton Wallén. “Was fiddling around with backbone and Google maps API v3 and decided to make a small application. Would appreciate your feedback/suggestions?” was the title of the ancient Reddit post, that unveiled the game.
The game has since built a large community worldwide, and even has a burgeoning competitive scene, despite it not being initially envisioned as a sport. Now many viewers go watch semi-pros like Tom Davies, aka GeoWizard, and his amazing skills at finding himself when being lost in Google Street View.
A Burgeoning Esport?
Davis gets dropped into a bustling marketplace, looks around, and sees a banner with the inscription “KSI” on it. “Does that stand for Kumasi?” a city in central Ghana. Turns out his prediction was just 2.2 miles off. Later he plops into a scenic mountainous-seaside area, examines some road signs, and pinpoints his location within Montenegro to just five yards.
Davis is one of the players on a growing trend. In 2021, more than 240,000 people follow the GeoGuessr tag on Twitch. French player AntoineDaniel hosted a casual competition in October, which earned over 100K views.
RadoX1988 is one of the moderators for the GeoGuessr. In an interview for The Verge, he shares that he isn’t sure how this happened. When he got involved with the subreddit in 2017, there were only around a dozen people competing. Then that number started rapidly growing around the end of 2020.
Head of communications at GeoGuessr Filip Antell says he welcomes the influx of new players. The team recently released a “Pro Leagues” function, where players can create their own round-robin competitions among invitees. The game now also has a “Career Mode” with daily challenges and experience points, reminiscent of similar progression systems like those in League of Legends and Counter-Strike.
What’s the Current State of GeoGuessr Esports?
To be fair, the sport is still in its initial phases. There’s no centralized competitive infrastructure, no teams. Right now, anyone can host tournaments, which themselves have different rules.
However, one of the more-established esports scenes so far is the Reddit League, complete with a stringent regular season that ranks players on their win/loss ratio. Each week the action goes to a different place. There is also a “World Cup” challenge where players compete head-to-head in “home” and “away” games. The first match takes place in one player’s chosen country, the second in the other’s backyard, like in traditional sports.
Despite this limited infrastructure, there are sometimes prizes. A Japanese tournament organizer by the name of Zotomo says that the most a player may receive is a GeoGuessr Prime subscription which guarantees an unlimited number of free games on the platform.
One major obstacle GeoGuessr has to overcome to become a veritable esport is its dependence on Google. Since Wallén developed the game on the back of data collected directly from Google, GeoGuessr headquarters will never be fully in control of its servers. Despite this, LAN events and such are still a possibility and the GeoGuessr team has already proven that such a game can exist in the same competitive atmosphere as CS;GO and such.