A mysterious, intriguing and competitive alternate reality game has created a lot of buzz in its first week after launch with technology blogs and news sites calling it the “the wackiest thing you can imagine” (All Things Digital) or the “augmented reality’s first killer app” (Technology Review). They are referring to Ingress, the augmented reality smartphone game developed by Google in their Niantic Labs, a start-up team led by Google’s former Geo division director, John Hanke.
The free Android closed-beta (for now) game follows the story of a mysterious energy that could potentially affect the way we are thinking. As with any such story, there are two rival groups that arise following this discovery: the “Enlightened” who are looking to embrace the power of this energy and make use of it and the “Resistance” who are trying to defend what is left of our humanity. Choosing a side will automatically enrol you in a war of resources, tactics and alliances where you will have to cooperate with players around the world to advance the cause of your chosen faction.
Until now, this looks like any of the many online MMORPGs that gather millions of active users worldwide. The big important difference that Google threw in the mix is that this happens in the world around you. Using your smartphone’s camera and augmented reality, the app paints an alternative world where you can harvest energy units (XM) by walking along the routes mapped on your phone or where you can create, hack or capture portals in public places.
According to All Thing Digital, Google didn’t create this project only for research purposes (to get data for their Project Glass), although the quantity of information they will gather about each player is ridiculously rich and valuable. They will also like to monetize it through in-game advertising based on the real physical stores and products in the game. According to the same source they have already signed deals with some US brands.
To further accentuate that this game is only an experiment, Google has confirmed that it will have a stop point (in a couple of years) and will not leave addicted gamers in a never-ending momentum. Meanwhile, being in a closed beta stage you can’t play this game unless you have an invitation from Google. To attempt to get one (just applied for mine) you can do it on the Ingress website.
If you had a chance of playing this game what did you think about it? Is it only an addictive AR game or is it much more than this? Share your ideas and thoughts in the comments box below.