Niantic and Punchdrunk to produce 10 new immersive theater experiences powered by augmented reality.
When it comes to location-based AR gaming, San Francisco-based developer Niantic is at the top of the food chain. Pokémon GO proved to be a massive hit upon its release back in 2016, commanding a loyal following of dedicated players from around the globe. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite has also seen millions of downloads since its June 2019 release, generating millions for the company while continuing to provide new updates weekly.
This week it was announced that Niantic will be partnering with UK-based immersive theater company Punchdrunk to develop and launch a collection of new AR experiences that will push interactive storytelling into new realms of engagement and entertainment.
Punchdrunk reinvented the theater experience with their production of Sleep No More, a reimagined version of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, Macbeth. Through the creative vision of the Punchdrunk team, Macbeth is presented through a dark and moody cinematic lens inspired by gothic film noir. Instead of watching the story play out from the sidelines, however, the audience is immersed in the production and surrounded by the cast.
Audience members wear a mask throughout the production; this is how you tell who is an audience member and who is part of the cast. You can’t interact with the cast, but you are free to move about the stage however you like. Each time you go, the experience will be different depending on your path.
Bringing Niantic’s AR expertise and Punchdrunk’s unique immersive storytelling together will create a new form of AR-powered theater that will further expand the horizon of interactive entertainment for 21st century audiences.
There are 10 new AR experiences in development, some of which requiring an AR headset in order to access. Each app will feature it’s own unique gameplay offerings. Similar to Pokémon GO and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, some games will get you out of the house and exploring your surroundings, while others may require you interact with friends and strangers from around the globe.
The very first endeavour between the two companies will be see the iconic game of CATAN brought to life as a global AR experience that turns your surroundings into a life-sized game board.
John Hanke, CEO of Niantic, hinted at what the gameplay could look like during a conversation with Wired, describing an experience where players must physically travel to real-world locations in search of digital clues hidden throughout their local neighborhoods and cities. When you arrive at a designated location, you’ll then need to scan, swipe, or perform a specific movement in order to interact with the digital content.
Sounds weird, right? That’s the point.
Niantic has spent years mapping the real-world for its global AR engine. As a matter of fact, Pokémon GO, Harry Potter, and their earlier game Ingress are all powered by this massive digital map. Bringing CATAN with the vision of Punchdrunk will surely be mind blowing fun.
In an official statement, Felix Barrett, Artistic Director of Punchdrunk said, “It is hugely exciting to be joining forces with the preeminent AR company in the world. At Punchdrunk we create richly cinematic 3D worlds where audiences can explore, touch and smell the environment; where the boundaries between reality and fantasy are indistinguishable,” adding, “Those that have seen Sleep No More often liken the experience to how it might feel to walk into a video game. What happens if you take that sense of adventure into the real world? Tear down the walls and the world becomes your stage.”
Merging the worlds of AR and immersive theater will no doubt disrupt what is considered the norm for entertainment. It will bend the rules of the genre in a way that will surely leave a lasting impression and continue to push AR immersive theater into new territory.
If you are interested, you can sign up for the CATAN beta version by clicking here.
Image Credit: Niantic, Punchdrunk