Niantic are a company that have well and truly blasted off at the speed of light. Their success with Pokémon Go is about as hard to believe as one of Team Rocket’s claims to world domination, yet the game has proven that the popularity of Pokémon is evergreen – this real-time counter will shows how many times the game has been downloaded while the page is open. However much less heed has been paid to its genre: Augmented Reality.
AR has been slowly creeping into our day to day life for years now, with sports casting, design work and even weather reports all using it in various forms. Why, then, doesn’t it feel more pervasive? Because exciting AR is incredibly hard to come by. Before Pokémon Go, its current entertainment use was restricted to cheesy greetings cards, like iGreet. These often require special cards, an iPhone app, and last-minute, panic-buying, desperation before they can be used at all.
Historically, and in terms of gaming, perhaps the most notable use of AR came in the form of the EyeToy for the Playstation 2. Essentially a webcam, it allowed players to interact with games, if a little clumsily, by moving and shaking. Two of the earliest games, Play and Groove, featured multiple party-games and Dance Dance Revolution style entertainment, respectively. Whilst fun, the key problem with the Eyetoy was that its novelty soon wore off. The idea was fantastic, but the execution was lacklustre – oftentimes movement was registered incorrectly, leading to frustrating player experiences.
So, where can AR be expected to go in the near future? With the success of Pokémon Go, it’s clear we are likely to see many more games of a similar style. The technology has arrived a stage where it genuinely merits use; the AR side of Go isn’t merely a side function to draw attention, rather, the whole game revolves around its use. Many other triple-A franchises could really benefit from real world, AR, instalments.
Personally, I’d love to see an Assassin’s Creed game which pitted Assassins versus Templars in a bid for control over the viewpoints native to the game-series. Imagine London, covered with viewpoints at key locations, with the templars and the brotherhood in a never ending game of Conquest from the Battlefield series. Even indie titles, such as Don’t Starve, lend themselves well to this sort of adaption. The ability to customise player sprites already exists in Don’t Starve and a waypoint based game which offered new customisations and food (so that players don’t, well, starve).
Finally, though this might be taboo to mention during Pokémon Go week, Digimon would lend itself just as well, if not better, to AR – considering they are literally digital monsters. If the A.I side of the game was done well, and the AR technology keeps increasing, whilst we can’t have literal Pokémon, Digimon are genuinely (sort of) achievable. With plenty of hype being generated by the new series, Digimon Adventure Tri, airing over 2015/16, fans are certainly more attentive to the franchise in the current climb. Maybe Namco Bandai Games would do a better job at providing at battling aspect to the game, an aspect which is my biggest bugbear with Pokémon Go.
Regardless of the speculation, with clear technological leaps and much more AR use in our everyday lives, I feel confident in forecasting many more large franchise titles appearing over the next couple of years. However, even if Go is just a fad, it has at the very least made Pokémon references cool again. Meowth, that’s right!