It all started in the summer of 2016. For as long as anyone could remember, the world of Pokémon had been confined to the realms of cartoons, toys, and video games. But on July 6th, 2016, something amazing happened.
Niantic, a software development company, released the revolutionary game Pokémon Go. The game used augmented reality to allow players to catch, battle, and trade Pokémon in the real world.
The game quickly became the biggest mobile game in history, with millions of players worldwide. In less than a hundred days, the app had been downloaded almost 230 million times and had generated more than $600 million in revenue. This means Pokémon Go reached this profit milestone more than twice as fast as the previous record holder—Candy Crush Saga!
More than six years after its launch, Pokémon Go continues to be the best augmented reality game in terms of commercial success. In 2021, it had been downloaded almost 600 million times and earned around $5.5 billion in revenue (source: Business of Apps). The game has also made Niantic one of the most successful companies in the gaming industry.
But what made the game so successful?
Well, besides it being entertaining and accessible, it was a lot more engaging than other games, thanks to augmented reality (AR). Its success gave way to other AR games like Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs and Jurassic World Alive. But what does the industry think of augmented reality entertainment today? And why is it beneficial to create AR games from a business perspective? Read on to find out.
What augmented reality gaming has to offer
Augmented reality gaming is a rapidly growing field in the gaming industry, with a wide range of possibilities for developers to explore. AR gaming involves using technology to create an interactive, immersive experience that enhances traditional video games.
Unlike virtual reality, which requires players to wear a headset, augmented reality entertainment usually involves smartphones or tablets. With these devices, players can interact with their environments and move around as they play.
AR games have the benefit of being more immersive than regular video games. Players feel like the game world and their physical world intertwine, as opposed to just spectating the events of a computer monitor. This allows for more realistic and natural interactions with the virtual environment.
Additionally, many AR games can be played with others in the same physical space or even require it. This allows for more natural social interactions than with PC or console games, where you usually play over the internet and only interact through a voice chat, if that.
Finally, augmented reality gaming enables players to interact with the real world in a unique way. For example, AR games can use real-world objects as part of the game, or they can be used to create virtual objects that appear in the physical space. These features can create an experience that is more dynamic and engaging than regular video games.
Yeah, but why should game companies develop more AR games?
Remember how Pokémon Go made $600 million in revenue in three months? That broken record is a good enough argument on its own if you ask us. Of course, it wasn’t just augmented reality technology that made it a sensation in the mobile gaming industry. Things like nostalgia and the overall popularity of the Pokémon series played a role.
But many well-designed nostalgia-inducing games are being published every now and then. And not all become a success. This means that one more secret ingredient is needed to create bestsellers—or even two more ingredients. We’re talking about the overall entertainment a game brings and how innovative it is.
This is precisely where Pokémon Go struck gold. It offered a new level of engaging fun and the option to play video games while exploring your neighborhood, town or city. And because this was innovative for the time, it had little to no competition.
Of course, there was the problem with players walking into private areas, including people’s backyards, private property, and restricted areas. Fortunately, both developers and users have learned since then, and this is no longer an issue for the most part.
Types of augmented reality gaming
There are three types of augmented reality games: location-based, marker-based and markerless. Let’s look into each of them.
Location-based AR games
Location-based augmented reality (AR) games are mobile applications that integrate real-world locations with interactive gaming experiences. These games use GPS, cameras, and other sensors on a device to bring virtual objects into the real world.
Location-based AR differs from marker-based AR in that it does not require using specially designed markers to generate 3D objects. This means the game can be played in any designated space. However, this introduces some limitations. For example, the GPS tracker will have difficulty working in buildings and other closed areas.
To show how a location-based augmented reality game can work, we’ll again use Pokémon Go as an example. In it, players use their smartphones to search for and capture virtual Pokémon characters that appear in their real-world environment.
As players move around, their device’s GPS tracks their location, and the game will generate Pokémon for them to find. When a Pokémon appears, players can use their device’s camera to view the creature in the real world and capture it with a Pokéball.
One great benefit of this type of augmented reality gaming is the real-world integration that encourages players to get outside and explore their environment. This means getting up from their couch and doing at least some physical activity, which is so desperately needed in today’s society.
Of course, you have to be careful. Such AR games can be a distraction, leading players to be unaware of their surroundings. And if users play in public spaces, they may be seen as a nuisance or a distraction by others.
Nevertheless, location-based augmented reality gaming is a great solution both from the business viewpoint and for the players themselves.
Marker-based AR games
Marker-based AR requires the use of a special marker or object that works as a marker. It can be placed virtually anywhere but is a prerequisite for this type of app to work.
The markers can take the form of an object you can manipulate, like in the case of the Merge Cube. The Merge Cube is a physical cube that contains markers on each of its six sides, which a compatible mobile app can recognize. By using physical markers, it can accurately track the position and orientation of the object in the real world and overlay virtual content onto it.
The Merge Cube has been used in educational settings to provide hands-on learning experiences in subjects like science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Students can manipulate the cube and explore virtual models of objects such as planets, molecules, and machines, gaining a deeper understanding of complex concepts through interactive visualizations.
Marker-based AR games provide an immersive and interactive experience that can be tailored to different types of players. For instance, a game can be designed to be a scavenger hunt, a puzzle game, or a shooting game, allowing players to explore and use their environment as part of the game. You can even enhance a board game with markers and an AR app!
Markerless AR games
Of course, augmented reality technically always needs some marker as it needs to know where it should display the digital objects in the physical environment. A markerless AR mobile game is one that does not require specific, dedicated markers and can generate virtual objects based on the user’s environment. This is the most versatile of the three solutions.
Watch the video below to see an example. It’s the AR mode in Jurassic World Alive. As you can see, it does not require a marker and determines the position of the virtual dinosaurs based on where the ground level is.
What you need to know when developing an AR game
Developing augmented reality games or any AR application through an external service provider can be a wise decision for businesses that lack the technical expertise or resources to develop in-house. Choosing the right software provider is critical to the success of the project. The company’s experience in AR game development is the first thing to consider. Game developers with a strong portfolio of projects in AR technology are more likely to deliver a high-quality product.
Another important consideration is communication. Working with a software development company with good communication skills and a transparent development process is important. This will ensure that the project stays on track and that any issues or concerns can be addressed in a timely manner.
Finally, the cost is a factor that should be considered when choosing a software development company. While it’s important to find a company that is within your budget, it’s also important to consider the quality of the work that will be delivered. A company that provides transparent pricing and is willing to work within your budget is ideal.
However, it’s important to remember that quality should not be compromised for the sake of cost. By considering these factors, businesses can choose the best software provider for their AR game development needs.
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