Breaking down the world of location-based AR gaming.
Who remembers summer of 2016 when the very popular AR game Pokémon GO dominated the news cycle? Well, maybe not dominated, but it definitely soaked up the spotlight with big media like Good Morning America and other prominent news outlets.
The location-based AR game—in which users traveled throughout their physical environment to discover and capture Pokemon—had such a huge impact on its users that the National Safety Council issued an advisory outlining the dangers of distracted walking. Then there were the gamers who played while driving, taking advantage of their vehicles speed to seek out new Pokemon faster and more efficiently.
At one point the game was so popular that people were listing veteran Pokémon GO accounts for hundreds of dollars on eBay, offering those interested an easier route into the game. As a matter of fact, you can still a handful of Pokémon GO accounts available for purchase online.
The buzz of Pokémon GO has cooled over the last three years. However, the game still maintains a considerable player base of loyal players from all over the world logging in on a daily basis; some of these groups even meet up in person for group Raids.
As a matter of fact, Niantic, the maker of Pokémon GO made an estimated $795 million worldwide in 2018, and even saw a 35% increase in gameplay over the previous year, according to Sensortower.
It’s those numbers that has game developers looking to create the next big location-based mobile AR craze, and there are a lot of options out there for you to choose from.
A majority of these experiences require a considerable amount of dedication, requiring players to spend many (so many) hours physically traveling to new locations in order to discover new content. So before you commit potentially months of your life investing in one of these time-consuming experiences, we put together a list breaking down some of most-talked-about location-based AR games to better help you pick your poison, so to speak. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll start with experiences currently available followed by several upcoming titles.
Just remember to keep your head and up and remain safe; and please, no playing while driving.
POKEMON GO – Niantic
This is the OG of location-based AR games. You run around seeking out Pokémon—some easy to catch, some pretty rare—train your Pokémon for battle, face off against other players in duels, take over Gyms, and team up with others to defeat powerful Raid Bosses; defeat the Raid Boss and you’ll have an opportunity to capture extra powerful Pokémon for your own collection.
Like all the games listed below, Pokemon GO involves a lot of walking around and searching for new Pokemon. Depending on their type, certain creatures will appear near specific locations. Water-type Pokemon, for instance, tend to pop-up around bodies of water, while grass-type Pokemon appear in forests and parks.
By visiting physical locations designated as PokeStops, you can stock up on special power-ups, Pokemon balls, and various other helpful items. If you don’t feel like hunting these locations down, Pokemon GO features a microtransaction system that allows you to buy more items.
THE WALKING DEAD: OUR WORLD – Next Games
The Walking Dead: Our World by Next Games is an official location-based AR game based on AMC’s The Walking Dead that has you fighting alongside Rick, Daryl, and Michonne, as you defend your territory from waves of flesh-hungry walkers. The AR game will have you working with other players to build shelters and explore the real world in search of other key characters from the show, as well as weapons and other items that you’ll need to survive.
There’s also the opportunity to join or create Guilds with other players and team-up on special missions to unlock unique rewards; there’s even a built-in chat service that lets you keep up-to-date with your team.
INGRESS PRIME – Niantic
Ingress Prime is based on Niantic’s 2013 ‘proof of concept’ game, Ingress, which laid the groundwork for the location-based AR market; some of the “Portals” created by players now actually serve as PokeStops in Pokemon GO. The project was quietly abandoned by the developer, much to the dismay of its small, but loyal fanbase. In 2018, Niantic revisited, redesigned and relaunched Ingress as Ingress Prime.
The new version features a similar concept to its original counterpart. Players choose between two factions—“Enlightened” and the “Resistance”—and take to the streets of their city/town/community to explore and interact with other Ingress Prime players, discover new portals, and earn valuable “actions points.”
JURASSIC WORLD ALIVE – Ludia Inc
Capitalizing on the success of the new Jurassic World franchise, Jurassic World Alive has you exploring your real-world surroundings in search of dinosaur DNA which you can use to create hybrid creatures in your lab. It won’t be that easy, however, as there are dinosaurs lurking around every corner of your street.
In order to capture them, you’ll first need to hunt down any dinos that appear on your map using a special drone equipped with tranquilizers. Once you’ve slowed the creature down, you’ll then have to battle face-to-shin (you know, because dinosaurs are huge) via a turn-based combat system that includes various moves and abilities. Defeating a dinosaur earns you its dino DNA, allowing you to combine it with other collected samples to create prehistoric monstrosities.
You can then take your brand new abomination and battle against other players for a top spot on the food chain. Like Ingress Prime, you’re free to team up with other players.
One important thing to note is the rampant use of microtransactions. Jurassic World Alive is committed to getting you to spend money; not an unreasonable practice for a free-to-play game, but an annoying one regardless.
GHOSTBUSTERS WORLD – Four Thirty Three
Ghostbusters World will have you suiting up with your proton beam to collect ghosts from every Ghostbusters film as they wreak havoc in your hometown, at work, and on the streets. Along with these smaller spectral threats, players can team up with other Ghostbusters to battle the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and other big ghosts during exciting boss raids.
Build up your ghost team and prepare them to battle other ghosts infesting Gozer’s Tower, or take your team and enter PVP matches in the Ghost Dimension.
SPECTREK – Games4All
Another, slightly cheesier, specter-based AR game, SpecTrek by Games4All will have you donning your ghost hunting cap in search of..well..ghosts! Not real ghosts, but virtual ones – so don’t get nervous!
Using your phone’s camera and GPS, you’ll walk around in search of hidden clues that will lead you to floating spectacles hiding in closets or parks. Want to make the game even creepier? Play in the dark using a flashlight to navigate the area.
Only available for Android devices.
FOLLOW JC GO – Fundación Ramón Pané, Inc
In Follow JC Go by Fundación Ramón Pané, Inc., you follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ as you search for digitized Catholic saints and other holy dignitaries. Build up your eTeam (Evangelization Team) and go toe-to-toe with other Saintly figures, or face off with demons in an exorcism.
Rack up some points by answering Biblical questions and you’ll rise through ranks on the international leaderboard. Believe it or not, this location-based AR game was actually commissioned by the Vatican with Pope Francis himself giving the game two thumbs up.
While this may sound like a cheap event at taking advantage of the craze cause by Pokemon GO, Fundación Ramón Pané, Inc actually poured a considerable amount of resources into the project, with reports indicating a development cost close to $500,000! What?!
LANDLORD TYCOON – Reality Games
Landlord Tycoon uses AR and real-world locations to teach you the ropes of real estate by investing in actual properties around your area in order to grow a real estate empire. Each player starts off with a poultry $50,000 they can use to invest in places such as your school, office building, or local library.
Players make money each time someone checks into their property (powered through Facebook check-in); the more popular your location, the more cash you rake in. You can then take all the real estate knowledge you’ve accumulated and battle other landlords for the title of top tycoon.
These are just some of the location-based AR games available to you at the moment. A search on the internet or any app store will bring up other games that might tickle your fancy.
Now on to next generation of location-based AR mobile games that developers will finally put an end to Pokemon GO’s seemingly endless reign.
HARRY POTTER WIZARDS UNITE – Niantic
In Harry Potter Wizards Unite the world of Harry Potter comes to life and you are at the center of it as a new recruit of the Statute of Secrecy Task Force. Rogue magic is everywhere, and it’s up to you to venture throughout the real-world in search of it.
Throughout your journey, you’ll work side-by-side with witches and wizards from all across the globe by casting spells and visiting wizarding Inns found in various Muggle locations scattered across the real world.
Featuring a combination of elements from both the original Harry Potter series and the recent Fantastic Beasts films, you’ll be spending a majority of your time using your wand to hunt down rogue magic in the hopes of solving the mystery of The Calamity and keeping magic hidden from Muggle eyes.
Keep a lookout for Portmanteaus, which you can be used to reveal Portkeys that can take you to iconic wizarding world locations, such as a full 360-degree AR environment of Ollivander’s Wand Shop.
Click here for more information on Harry Potter Wizards Unite.
DRAGON QUEST WALK – Square Enix
An AR adaptation of Square Enix’s beloved 30-year-old franchise, Dragon Quest Walk takes all the monsters you love from the original series and scatters them throughout reality.
As you explore your environment, you’ll come across various creatures, such as dragons, on the world map. Click on the dragon and you’ll find yourself transported into an RPG-style turn-based battle. Defeating creatures rewards you with improved stats and powerups, which you can use to battle other creatures.
Based on the information provided, players can come across unique “Quests” tied to existing ‘Landmarks.’ As they travel to and from different quests, they’ll stumble across wild monsters, as well as townsfolk. You’ll also have your own home base where you can chill and decorate with furniture and items you’ve collected during your Dragon Quest adventures.
For more information on Dragon Quest Walk, or if you’re interested in joining a closed beta for iOS and Android, click here.
MINECRAFT EARTH – Mojang
Minecraft Earth is shaping up to be an absolutely massive location-based AR game. The original Minecraft involves building structures, collecting resources, and exploring various environments;Minecraft Earth lets you do all those same things, only in a real-world environment.
Earth’s game director, Torfi Olafsson, told the Verge, “We have covered the entire planet in Minecraft.” The Minecraft Earth team used maps of the entire Earth to create a game where all players are able to interact and collaborate in a shared world. This means that every lake is a place you can fish, every park contains trees you can chop down. “Adventures” hidden throughout the world allow players to team-up on dangerous missions through virtual structures designed to mirror their real-world locations. So, for example, dungeons located near lakes or rivers will feature various water-based elements.
As you progress through the game, you’ll discover rare items and valuable resources, unique adventures, and various other elements made famous by the 2019 classic.
Not only are you able to create Minecraft structures in the real world, but you’ll also be able to step into them, as Apple demo’d during their recent WWDC on June 3rd, and it is wonderfully impressive.
For more information on Minecraft Earth or sign up for the beta, click here.
While Pokemon GO remains at the top of the location-based mobile AR food chain, upcoming experiences such as Minecraft Earth and Harry Potter Wizards Unite may just have the backing and popularity to finally oust the monster catching simulator from its position.
Either way, it’s clear audiences still haven’t had their fill of location-based AR, and with smartphone and AR headset technology only continuing to advance (see Apple’s recent ARKit 3 announcement), there’s no doubt we’ll only begin to see more GPS-dependent AR experiences hit the market.
Just remember to be safe!!