When Pokémon Go! was released back in 2016, few could have really predicted the immense success that the game would enjoy.
Of course, the Pokémon franchise is hugely popular – who doesn’t love Pikachu and co? – but the nature of the game, which sees players attempting to ‘catch’ the cartoon characters in their local towns and cities, was bizarre, to say the least.
Attention, Trainers! It looks like some Trainers have started to encounter the Legendary Pokémon Xerneas in Pokémon GO for the first time! Legends say it can share eternal life. It slept for a thousand years in the form of a tree before its revival. pic.twitter.com/Kicv1QV309
— Pokémon GO (@PokemonGoApp) May 7, 2021
And yet… Pokémon Go! has gone on to become one of the most downloaded games of recent years – more than one billion people worldwide had the title on their devices in 2019.
The technology that made the game possible was augmented reality (AR), which helps bring together the real world with virtual environments. AR essentially overlays virtual content on top of the world around you, hence why you could find Pikachu and Chikorita hanging out in your local park or by the shopping mall.
Pokémon Go! remains the flagbearer for augmented reality in gaming, but more and more titles are emerging that have AR at their heart. For example, Brickscape uses a smartphone’s camera to create the gaming environment, while in Kings of Pool any flat surface can be used as a way for AR to overlay a pool table on top.
Augmented reality is being used in other areas of life too. Ikea, for example, can now show you how a piece of furniture will look in your home through their Place app, and other retail applications for AR are being developed all the time.
Like all innovative technologies, it can take some time before the very best uses for it can be unearthed, but it finally feels as though AR is ready for wider and more mainstream acceptance.
Introducing the brand-new augmented reality experience for LEGO® MYTHICA, exclusively available on the LEGOLAND® Windsor app. Keep an eye out for more exciting features coming soon… pic.twitter.com/14B7nUZwKn
— LEGOLAND Windsor (@LEGOLANDWindsor) May 14, 2021
Gaming will lead the drive. Being able to transport players into new worlds – without even needing to leave the sofa – offers plenty of opportunities for developers. They can take players onto the battlefield, they can solve crimes using clues displayed in AR, you can score a goal for your team in a cup final, or even take your seat at a casino. For online bingo operators, for example, the chance to supply their latest bonuses, offers, and bingo promotions to players will help to drive virtual footfall too, as well as to boost and retain customer interaction.
So, the commercial gains for gaming firms are there for all to see, and the benefits for players speak for themselves too.
But what does the future hold for AR-led gaming?
Play Your Way
For the most part, AR games will be played on mobile devices, and, as we know, many of us carry a smartphone or a tablet with us pretty much wherever we go.
That portability means that game developers have a far wider scope and thus they can flex their creative muscle in the content that they deliver.
As such, expect the Pokémon Go! game mechanic to be explored in greater detail in years to come. Can we expect to see players hunting for clues to unravel a mystery in our neighborhood, or even a whole sports game to unfold without the need for a ball or any equipment?
The End of Console Gaming?
There are those who believe that a lack of versatility in console gaming will ultimately prove to be the death knell for ‘traditional’ gaming.
A PlayStation or an Xbox brings with them, limitations – they need a power supply, they use cables, they need to be correctly stored etc. Mobile games solve many of these riddles, and with younger generations so comfortable playing their favorite titles on phones/tablets, the landscape of gaming could change quite markedly.
Soon, the PlayStation and the Xbox could become the refuge of gaming connoisseurs alone, with online games – powered by AR – adopted by the mainstream.
One of the main barriers that prevented AR from becoming widely enjoyed was its data usage.
The quality of the gaming experience lives and dies by its speed and seamlessness, and it’s fair to say that 4G – in some geographical locations – simply isn’t fast enough to deliver the best.
But that could be set to change as 5G is rolled out, and, with an anticipated reduction in lag, AR gaming should be catapulted to the next level of greatness.
From the football pitch and the battlefield to the bingo hall, we can’t wait to see what augmented reality holds in store for gaming in the years to come.