It was May, 2016, and I was on a business trip in Sao Paulo when my son called me and said: “Dad! It is amazing the number of people that are standing in our garden.”
It turned out that our sundial was a Pokemon Stop in Niantic’s Pokemon Go game. I should have seen it coming; I had already figured out that our sundial had been used in Niantic’s Ingress game previously.
So we got firsthand experience of the rise of the game. We saw more and more people hunting for the Pokemons; kids passed by regularly, parents with small kids and even grown-ups lingered. However after two months, we saw the excitement wash away and the crowds fell down to virtually zero. It seemed the hype was already over before it started.
People that played Ingress and left the game probably could have predicted it, as much of the Pokemon Go game play came straight out of Ingress. One reason is that the sites where you catch the Pokemons are too static, an exact location, and you have to be in close radius of that location. Also, like Ingress, climbing levels is based on time-crunching, making the next level more cumbersome to get to. This static nature seemed contrary to the dynamic nature of the real world. My gut feel is that the more a game is mingled with the real world, the more dynamic, diverse and unexpected it has to be, in order to better keep the attention of the audience.
What Pokemon Go did do was to pave the way for augmented reality gaming, showing us a glimpse of what the future will hold. No doubt many game makers are inspired by the success of Niantic and will without a doubt spin more exciting new ideas, adding dynamic location and constantly renewing content. Surroundings will become more responsive and interactive, laying the artificial world on top of the physical world. Manufacturers and retailers will be in the queue to become part of that experience (Our own Oliver Guy also wrote about this.)
One thing to note about augmented reality: there may be some legal issues in the future. Just think about the fact that Niantic used my sundial in their game, without my permission. I expect that if these type of games are getting more common we will see more and more court cases.
Especially if advertisements will appear on your “virtual” real estate, the question will be raised who is the owner of that virtual piece of real estate. It seems likely that courts will judge that the physical owner can make a claim. Like the case in the Netherlands where Pokemons were curfewed in the evening in certain parts of Den Hague.
Makes me think, though, that I should put a billboard next to my sundial…“For Rent” - for future augmented games.