Transformation of Gaming Industry by Augmented Reality
Augmented reality is a technology that is now used across many sectors. The technology’s unique capabilities have allowed it to improve various processes in a variety of sectors, including healthcare, architecture, tourism, and manufacturing.
Gaming is another one among them. AR has transformed the gaming sector in a myriad of ways, particularly among smartphone users. And due to the increasing popularity of AR games among smartphone users, a report from Research and Markets estimates that the global AR gaming market reached $3 billion in 2020, amid the COVID-19 crisis. The US accounts for an estimated $903.8 million of this figure.
In the same report, they also predict that AR gaming will become a $33.5 billion industry by 2027, with a yearly growth of over 41% during 2020-27. China, Japan, and Canada are all expected to have over 30% of annual growth in the sector during the same period.
The Release of a Top Set of Games
For years augmented reality had remained outside the realm of gaming. Although there had been a few attempts, none got enough leverage.
That was until Niantic entered the scene. Niantic can be considered the developers who single-handedly opened up the AR games market because they did not create one great AR game, but two of them: Ingress and Pokemon Go.
In 2013, Niantic released their first AR game named Ingress. It was a location-based AR game with a science-fiction backstory.
The gameplay went like this: users had to choose between two rival factions with opposing philosophies regarding what must be done with a special substance called ‘exotic matter.’ The users’ job is to travel around the world to different locations and find ‘portals.’ These portals, once identified, must be captured for one’s team.
Due to the unique form gameplay, Ingress has seen a massive influx of users worldwide since its release. It has a dedicated fan base of users from a wide range of demographics, who still play the game nearly seven years after its original release. Niantic even released an updated version of the same game called Ingress Prime in 2018.
Even though Ingress didn’t get widespread attention from the mainstream, it did find a dedicated fan base. It was also one of the first games to showcase the capabilities of AR as a gaming technology.
In 2016, Niantic released an AR version of the Pokemon series of games, called Pokemon Go, which allowed users to capture Pokemon in the real world instead of a virtual one.
Within a few days, the game spread like wildfire through the smartphone user base. It became so successful that it set a record for the most revenue earned in a single month, with $207 million.
Pokemon Go was the first AR game that penetrated the public consciousness. It showed to the rest of the world that augmented reality could become a mainstream gaming technology.
This first version of Pokemon Go only had a few basic features. Like the ability for users to capture a wide range of pokemon by roaming around their surroundings and matching the pokemon available at a place based on the nature of the place (if one was near the sea or any other water bodies, they are more likely to see water type pokemon than fire type pokemon).
In later years, Niantic added additional features like the buddy pokemon feature and raid battles. All these features got widespread acclaim from users.
Other AR games have followed suit. This includes games from hit franchises like Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and Ghost Busters.
AR Bought in New Gamers
For years now, game companies have been unable to reach certain sections of the audience due to the stigmas revolving around gaming. Because until recently, gaming was widely considered to be an anti-social pastime.
Mobile gaming ushered in a change to all that. The facility for players to play wherever they want has helped change the public’s perception of gaming. It was a wake-up call for companies who soon realized that a vast majority of the world’s population would happily become gamers if given the right games in the right platforms.
AR has also followed suit in the steps of mobile gaming. Augmented reality does not have a lot of stigmas attached to it like other games. And thanks to that, new audiences have embraced AR gaming wholeheartedly. Primarily because of two reasons:
- Active Gaming
- Adventures in the Real-World
1. Active Gaming
One of the big news that came out at the release of Pokemon Go was the sheer number of people on the streets and other public places playing the game. One could witness people running through parks, buildings, playgrounds, etc., to catch virtual monsters.
At least some people who had witnessed these scenes would have found it hard to believe that the people running around were playing games.
This is because gaming has traditionally been associated with a sedentary lifestyle. It brings to our minds the images of young men sitting in front of their consoles or PCs for hours on end, refusing to leave their homes (the stereotypical portrayals of gamers in the media have helped popularize this stigma).
Pokemon Go, however, did not come with this stigma. It was a game that one could play outdoors. Hence it was embraced wholeheartedly by a significant part of the population.
Most of the other AR games are this way too. They don’t tether gamers to the confines of their homes, and some even force them to go outside. And games like Kings of Pool AR allow gamers to not only play outdoors but play with other people as well.
Other games have also capitalized on this outdoor aspect in unique ways. For instance, Zombie Run is an AR game where the user is motivated to run by the game by telling them that a horde of zombies is after them, whom they must outrun. This gives gamers an extra incentive to run every day, as they are being active and enjoying a gaming experience simultaneously.
2. Adventures in the Real-World
Many fans of Pokemon or Harry Potter would have wished to be a part of these respective universes. Fans of Pokemon would have dreamed of being able to catch Pokemon as Ash and Red did in the anime and games. While fans of Harry Potter would have had similar dreams of being able to cast spells, create magical potions, and defeat dementors.
Augmented reality games have now made it possible for these fans to do just that. With the Pokemon Go game and the Harry Potter AR games, these sets of fans are now able to live out their adventures in the real-world.
What makes this even more exciting is that the player itself is the main character in these games. They are not embodying anyone else’s story or adventure, but rather are having an adventure themselves, as themselves. This sense of having a personal adventure gives them a unique satisfaction, which they might not get from other games.
These also allow players to pair these virtual adventures with the real-ones they have. They could be traveling to a distant country on vacation, and they could pair this experience with playing an AR game like Ingress and look for portals in that part of the world. Or they could find and catch pokemons available in that region.
A New Future in Gaming
Augmented reality games are now played on mobile phones.
The future, however, might be something else completely. Many start-ups and big companies are building dedicated AR wearable glasses. These glasses would allow people to see both the real world and the virtual AR experiences added on to it, with their very own eyes, instead of through a smartphone screen.
Like the Vuzix Blade and Epson MOVERIO BT-300, some of these glasses have been released to the public. But none of them so far have made a significant mark. However, we can be assured that we’ll eventually see better and more user-friendly AR glasses, as these companies continue to innovate.
AR software development technologies are also similarly getting improved. The market is currently dominated by ARKit and Google’s ARCore, followed by other offerings like Vuforia. And all these development technologies are getting better with each passing year.
Apple, for instance, in its latest ARKit version, introduced new features like Depth API and Location Anchoring. Google has also made similar improvements to ARCore, introducing a Depth API of their own.
With so much innovation going on, we can be sure that we will see better AR games and experiences in the near future.
Augmented reality gaming is here to stay and thrive. The platform’s unique features will usher in new gamers in the coming years, as technology and the development technologies improve.
This is also coincidentally, the right time to build AR games with top AR development companies. A top AR game development company will be able to develop a game that will render an amazing experience that combines the real and the virtual worlds.