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Gaming app Tri-Jump wins Tampa Bay team $10,000

Team Moreno preps for the presentation of their app.

Team Moreno's app Tri-Jump for the Got Game competition.

Kristopher Ali presents his team's app to a panel at GTE Financial.

GTE Got Game App Competition.

After they presented Tri-Jump, a financial gaming app, at the GTE Financial “Got Games” competition last December, brother and sister team Matt and Amie Moreno were antsy to hear the news: Had they won the contest’s $10,000 prize?

Finally, just before Christmas, Amie called to check in. Tri-Jump, a simple but easily addictive application that involves maneuvering triangles through various levels of game play, had won!

21-year-old Matt and 18-year-old Amie are residents of Wesley Chapel who have previously developed and released a “random generator” app to the app store.
Tri-Jump will be released directly by GTE Financial in Feb 2015. The object of the game is to move triangles in the correct path through reward-based levels. Players can earn in-game dollars and cents to buy extra levels and collect keys to unlock levels as they move the triangles from stage to stage. 

Mandy Zurbrick, VP of Marketing at GTE Financial, says that the company had no expectation in terms of who would enter the competition.
“We just wanted to put it out there, with a chance to brand GTE as an innovator, and to showcase what we’re looking for,” Zurbrick says. ”We were as shocked as everyone” to see a young team win.

Brother and sister app-building team 

The concept for a puzzle-based game had been in Matt’s mind for a few years, so when the Morenos’ mom told them about the GTE Financial competition, they went to work. The biggest change to fit contest criteria was an added financial component to the app, which allows  players to unlock levels with credit and earn credit from beating them.

Matt handled development, while Amie took charge of some of the graphic design elements.
“I always liked puzzle, strategy, portal-type games where you try to think ahead, plan out and solve a puzzle,” Matt Moreno says. “I’ve been programming since high school.”

Amie Moreno, who hasn’t taken formal graphic design classes but learned from watching her sister work with Photoshop and other programs, will be attending an online graphic design program through the University of South Florida.

Matt, who graduated from USF with a degree in Computer Science in 2014, has taken a role at election management software company Tenex.

Matt and Amie say they will continue to develop applications together.

And their plans for that $10,000 in prize money?

“Probably school. I’m just gonna be putting mine in the bank and saving it up,” Amie says. “We’re both super grateful. It’s going to be really helpful for us, especially starting out.”

“We couldn’t have asked for better applicants. They’ve been phenomenal to work with. Any time we ask for an idea or a change, they’re on it,” says GTE Financial‘s Nancy Sternitzky. “They’ve been great.”

Rebranding financial institutions through gamification

The Tri-Jump financial gaming app was chosen over a more complex game because of “ease of use, a phenomenal history behind how they came up with the idea, the graphic design; the entrants and the concept itself is what won them,” explains Sternitzky, one of the competition’s judges.
“You could see many ages playing it and still enjoying it,” Sternitzky says.

Sternitzky, VP of Technology Solutions at GTE Financial, says that the company’s CEO, Joe Brancucci, recognizes a challenge faced by financial institutions: “They never change. They’re very rigid and traditional.”

Credit unions are not, Sternitzky says. So Brancucci decided to push the envelope a little and get into gaming.
It’s only been 6-7 months since the idea sparked. Since then, GTE has brought on a full-time Gamification Developer, Seth Boone, to help move the idea forward.

“Innovation, with a real commitment behind it,” Sternitzky says.

Inspiring innovation in Tampa Bay

Tri-Jump is already through the first round of code at GTE. The app will be available for free download on both Android and iOS platforms. 

Along with the $10,000 that Amie and Matt were awarded, Team Moreno will earn residual earnings once the app has been released to the public.

Currently, credit within the game can only be built up through game play. In the future, possible ad space or the ability to buy a cheat could produce more revenue for the app.

“We’ll work on ways to make money, but that was never the intent,” Sternitzky says. “It was really to get our name out there. We want people to know that there are other ways we can educate them about their finances. This is the first entry.”

The “Got Game” competition, which ran from July 24 to Nov. 21, 2014, accepted new, unpublished gaming apps that had to be fully functional and contain a financial theme or component. 

The two finalist teams included Team Moreno from Wesley Chapel as well as Team Quaint Shanty from Tampa. Members of both finalist teams are GTE members.

The competition’s judging event was held on Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014, at GTE headquarters, 711 E. Henderson Ave in Tampa. An app unveiling was held on Jan 22, 2015, also at GTE headquarters. GTE Financial is a not-for-profit financial cooperative that is locally owned and operated in the Tampa Bay area. 

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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