POKEMON GO, AR & THE FUTURE OF MOBILE GAMING
July 14, 2017 — When Pokémon GO was unveiled last summer, it looked like possibly the biggest game changer in mobile gaming history. Not only did it resurrect one of the most popular gaming franchises of all time, but it did so through an exciting and almost entirely new style of gameplay: the use of mobile cameras for augmented reality. As some analysts put it, the game took AR mainstream, and many of us figured that mobile gaming would never be the same. Surely, there would be imitations of Pokémon GO combining similar gameplay with other characters and different franchises.
This hasn’t actually been the case. Despite a few rumours about spin-offs or follow-ups to Pokémon GO, the game still stands alone as the primary AR experience available on mobile devices—at least without the use of headsets. So what are we to make about Pokémon GO, the emergence of AR, and the future of mobile gaming as related to both?
For one thing, it’s important to mention that Pokémon GO isn’t done turning heads. Excitement about the game tapered off somewhat after the initial surge of enthusiasm, but that’s only natural. The game’s developers have had to find ways to adapt, and the recent announcement of the most significant update yet indicates that they’re still working on keeping this game at the top of the charts. There’s no telling for sure, but it would seem that the longer Pokémon GO stays relevant (and impressive), the likelier it becomes that we will still see games that imitate its basic format.
That said, we shouldn’t narrow the potential of AR mobile gaming down to Pokémon GO imitations. It may well be that we’ll see other games involving popular characters and creatures that can be “captured” in the real world through our cameras. The most popular rumour has revolved around the development of a game based on Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them from the Harry Potter universe (though no such game has been confirmed). But what else might we see on AR?
One possible answer based on where different branches of the gaming industry are today is that we might see soon casino games brought to life using this technology. It comes to mind because online casinos have already taken the step of being able to stream professional dealers with computer screens and real-time video feeds in an effort to make their gaming environments seem more realistic. Now, imagine if that same technology was used at your kitchen table, with a dealer projected via AR and your opponents sitting around the table. It would effectively bring a digital casino to life in the space of your own home—something online gaming sites are already trying to do.
We might also extend this idea to include other types of in-person experiences like old board games, other card games, or even some tabletop role-playing games. Just as we might imagine with poker, we could see these games brought to life thanks to the projection of boards, game pieces, and opponents that you’d be playing with in real time over an internet connection. Ideas like these would probably depend on some sort of glasses or goggles, but that brings us to our last point about where this all seems to be headed.
Another example that comes to mind is more creative games being adapted to suit AR. Artistic creation has been an early focal point for VR and AR developers (think of Google's Tilt Brush experience), and these types of experiences can be even more impressive when they're set in our own homes. It could be that in the near future we'll be projecting digital paintings, sculptures, and architectural structures onto our tables at home.
If we’re to believe early reports about Apple’s next major product reveal, it sounds as if the world’s biggest tech company is making a major play for mobile AR. Apple seems to be leaping ahead of the competition in this field. While its efforts aren’t exclusively aimed at gaming, they’ll certainly have an effect. Should Apple release its own glasses or goggles experiences like those discussed above will quickly become more realistic for mobile gaming.
This is a new gaming medium that’s arriving in a hurry, and it will be fun to see what ultimately comes of the movement that was started by Pokémon GO in the summer of 2016.