Niantic Labs, creators of the Pokémon Go (and therefore architects of the best 2 weeks of gaming in 2016) announced this week that they are working on another Augmented Reality game, this time based on the Harry Potter brand. Planning to be released in 2018, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite will take the style of gameplay seen in Pokémon Go, with players performing spells, being sorted into one of the 4 houses, and generally acting like angsty teenagers, I guess.
Even as someone who isn’t particularly a Harry Potter fan, it sounds exciting. The first fortnight of playing Pokémon Go was a fantastic experience, which enabled totally random strangers to become friends over the search of digital Charizard’s. In the end the gameplay mechanics were unfortunately too shallow to hold many players’ attention for a prolonged period, however it has still kept a very dedicated fan-base that play regularly.
In those two weeks when the game was fresh however, there was much talk of how this style of game would begin to take the world by storm. Much like how COD4 (released 10 years ago yesterday!) spawned a series of modern warfare FPS competitors, Pokémon Go was predicted to be the start of the AR revolution.
However, that never really worked out. No games were able to grab the public’s attention as much as Pokémon Go, and as such the trend seemed to stop there. Is it the case that Niantic Labs are the only developer that can do geo-location AR games successfully? Or are AR games just a gimmick that need an established franchise to keep them relevant?
Well, as of November 2017, there are still plenty of AR games in development, albeit ones you may not have heard of. But fret not! Here I will give you the run down of some future AR releases:
Would Pokémon Go have been as successful if it didn’t have the Pokémon branding attached? Probably not. The game isn’t too dissimilar to Niantic’s previous effort Ingress, and whilst that game was a relative success, it didn’t do anywhere near as well as 2016’s effort. Therefore, it seems that attaching a well-known property to a mediocre game experience might be the way to go.
Enter The Walking Dead.
In The Walking Dead: Our World, players will be able to ‘fully immerse themselves in the action of the hit TV show by blending digital objects, such as characters and other game elements, with the players’ own environment.’ Cool. This game looks like a much more intense experience than Pokémon Go, by actively requiring the player to engage with zombies as they come for you, as opposed to you searching out them.
The game doesn’t have a release date yet, however that didn’t stop the developers releasing a fancy trailer video to entice viewers of the concept. It doesn’t show much actual gameplay, (much like Pokemon Go’s stunning initial trailer,) however it promises a lot. Using your phone as your view piece, you can actually fight virtual zombies as they chase you through the park, the supermarket, and most likely your bedroom.
Father.io is an attempt to bring laser tag to your smartphone using AR technology. Funded on Indiegogo early last year, the game involves players attaching this large ‘Interceptor’ sensor to the back of their phones. Then, users look at their phone’s screen to see a virtual representation of a standard FPS UI (complete with the ability to look down iron sights of your guns.)
This large ‘Interceptor’ then act as both the gun, shooting lasers out the middle of it, as well as having a number of sensors attached to know when you’ve been shot at. As a general concept it seems cool, if slightly unoriginal. However, the promise of an MMOFPS is hard not to get excited by, and if done correctly, this could be real fun way to spend an afternoon in the park.
Just like Pokemon Go and the above Walking Dead game, Father.io comes with a super fancy trailer that doesn’t actually show how the game works.
(This is beginning to become a theme.)
Reality Clash is a similar title to that of Father.io; an ARFPS in which you’re challenged to find and shoot at other players. It’s positioning itself as a natural successor to Pokemon Go’s style of gameplay,and has quite literally called itself ‘Pokemon Go with guns’.
Interestingly, despite not even being released yet, Reality Clash has already generated $3.5 Million in revenue, through the inclusion of a crypto-currency microtransaction system. So far, thousands of would be players have invested in a game, that isn’t even out yet, by buying virtual currency and virtual guns.
Everything about this game is odd, but fascinating in how it represents a potential future for the financing of games. For perhaps a more negative take on the game, have a look at Jim Sterling’s recent video on it:
Okay, I’m being a little bit cheeky here, as this isn’t a game that will be released in the future. In fact, it was released yesterday! But I really like how this title offers a different way of utilising AR.
In Mini Guns AR, you have to create a small army of units through which to send to battle on your kitchen table. Using your camera, units are realised as little 3D figures running across any nearby surfaces, and it’s up to you to send them to their death, just like in the below video.
Unfortunately, this game doesn’t really play to AR’s strengths, by not allowing the player to move about freely, however it may offer a fun experience for little ones, or on rainy days.
Whilst this game is technically AR, don’t be expecting to play it exclusively with your smartphones any time soon. To play this game (which again is already available), you will need a Lenovo Mirage AR headset. Slip your phone into this headset, much like a Samsung Gear or Google Cardboard, and you will then be able to view the Jedi Challenges relayed through the camera of your phone itself.
Using the bundled in Lightsaber controller, the beam of which is thus represented through your phone’s screen, and you essentially become a Jedi, and can have duels with Kylo Ren, Darth Maul and even Darth Vader himself. A kind of VR and AR mix then, but one that demonstrates the potential for AR moving forward.
The catch? It ain’t cheap, coming at just under £250 for the set. Still looking for Christmas ideas?
What other cool AR games have I missed? Do you think AR is just a fad, or will it grow into something more? Let’s chat!
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