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The Next Level of Gaming with Augmented Reality (AR)

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By Veronika Petrenko
17 min read
25.07.2020

The Next Level of Gaming with Augmented Reality (AR)

The gaming industry is continually developing, with new technologies introduced every year, such as AR in gaming. You cannot simply ignore the presence of gamification, which is applied to e-learning curriculums. But what about the actual games on PCs, consoles, and mobile devices? There are countless applications of AR technologies in the gaming industry, ranging from enhancing the player’s experience to creating new gameplay mechanics.

It’s no surprise that AR technologies are still finding innovative ways to revolutionize gaming. So, let’s answer some of the most commonly asked questions regarding AR in the gaming industry. What is AR in gaming? What exactly can augmented reality bring to modern games? How can you leverage the key advantages of AR to create innovation-driven gaming experiences? And which prominent games have made particular use of AR technologies? Let’s find out.

Development of AR in the Gaming Industry

The AR technology itself has an impressive potential to be applied in the gaming industry. The market also shows a strong leaning towards mobile gaming. For instance, a Newzoo report emphasizes that mobile gaming generated $93.2B in 2021. This astounding number indicates that this niche generates more revenue than the film and music industries combined.

Wondering why the mobile gaming industry and its size matter so much? As specified in the ResearchandMarkets research, the application of AR is driven by a rising number of mobile games. Because of such an emphasis on mobile games, AR holds a special place in the contemporary gaming industry. The continuous expansion of the mobile gaming market is a perfect opportunity to adopt AR technologies on a larger scale.

But how exactly does AR manifest itself in gaming? For some gamers, augmented reality has been a distant dream. When reviewing the real-life applications, AR can become a missing link between real-life surroundings and the digital environment. By becoming a magic glue between the two, AR can become a technology that changes the way players interact with interactive mediums.

pokemon go
Image from teahub.io

The gaming industry has been quick to adopt AR technology and is one of the most active sectors in terms of AR development. The release of the Pokemon GO game in 2016 was a watershed moment that demonstrated the potential of AR in the gaming industry. The game quickly became a global phenomenon, with millions of people playing it on their smartphones. The success of the first AR mobile games has led to a renewed interest in AR technology from the gaming industry. Several major game companies, including Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony, are investing heavily in AR technology.

Other games have followed suit, and there are now many popular AR games available, including Jurassic World Alive, Ghostbusters World, and The Walking Dead: Our World. These games use AR to bring virtual creatures and characters into the real world, allowing players to interact with them in various ways. AR is also being used to enhance traditional video games. For example, the Xbox One console has an AR app called Kinect Sports Rivals that allows players to compete in numerous sports. And the PlayStation 4 console has an AR game called The Playroom, which uses the PlayStation Camera to create an interactive virtual environment for players to explore. 

Several AR games in development are designed for AR headsets, such as the Microsoft HoloLens and the Magic Leap One. These games include Project X-Ray, an immersive first-person shooter developed by Microsoft, and Scraper: First Strike, an action-adventure game developed by Labrodex, Inc. It is clear that AR has a significant impact on the gaming industry and will forever change how we play video games.

The future of AR in the gaming industry is undoubtedly bright. The success of the first mobile AR games has proven how much demand there’s for AR technology among ordinary gamers. The gaming industry is investing heavily in AR technology, and several major gaming companies are developing AR products. The development of AR in the gaming industry will lead to new and innovative gameplay experiences.

VR vs. AR in Gaming

While it might sound obvious, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are distinct in the gaming industry. To put it simply, VR creates an entirely immersive experience (usually involving a VR headset), while AR augments the player’s existing surroundings. In AR, 3D graphics are emphasized to superimpose the pre-generated imagery over the user’s view of the real-life environment. In contrast, AR technologies in gaming rely upon utilizing the player’s senses (sight, primarily) to locate in the simulated environment.

Both these technologies have much to offer, each having its range of benefits for players. On the one hand, VR games, such as Half-Life: Alyx, Beat Saber, or Superhot, offer an immersive experience of actually “being within the game.” On the other hand, the AR industry, with its heavy reliance on the mobile market, requires no special headsets to be played. Each, with its list of perks, can bring a revolutionary change to how players worldwide perceive gaming.

Either AR or VR technologies in gaming have a bright future, especially considering the already established gaming hits. If one is to review the AR titles, released mainly on mobile devices, it’s evident that AR links real-life environments with digital ones. And while VR gaming titles require headsets, like those from Oculus, HTC, or Valve, they provide a fully immersive experience for gamers. Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the key benefits of both VR and AR technologies in gaming.

vr gaming process
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As for VR, it opens up a whole new world of experiences for ordinary gamers. Traditional gaming titles cannot replicate the immersiveness that virtual reality has. Some of the most considerable benefits of VR in gaming are:

  • Most VR games are designed to be played using physical exercise. Strictly in this sense, the combination of entertainment and exercising makes VR revolutionary on its own.
  • On consoles, such as Playstation 4, VR titles support multiplayer options, and it means that players can invite their friends over to have a collaborative VR gameplay experience. So, it seems that socializing and VR aren’t at odds.
  • Unlike traditional games, VR titles highlight interactivity and immersiveness above anything else. In other words, you can interact with objects by “physically holding” them or manipulating sports equipment from the comfort of your home.
ar gaming process
Image from roadtovr.com

AR technologies in gaming have a list of benefits already enjoyed by millions of players globally. Some of them are:

  • AR opens an unprecedented opportunity to enjoy the combination of a real-life environment with 3D digital graphics. This multi-dimensional space present in AR games is something that gamers adore.
  • On the practical side, most AR games are currently available on mobile devices, namely smartphones and tablets. With no need to purchase specialized headsets or VR equipment, AR games are more accessible to ordinary players.
  • Some AR games currently popular on mobile gadgets also emphasize social interaction, have specialized leaderboards, and offer multiplayer options. In this sense, mobile AR gaming has almost an unlimited potential for collaborative gameplay!

Types of AR games

Reality beyond reality is a promising trend. When it comes to AR games, they come in various forms and are adapted to different devices. The global AR gaming market is now primarily focused on mobile devices. Following the success of Pokemon GO, Ingress, and The Walking Dead: Our World, it becomes clear that the future of AR technologies in gaming belongs to mobile devices.

Based on the genre breakdown, the most popular types of AR games are:

  • First-person shooters
  • Adventures
  • Exergames
  • Sports
  • RPGs

By researching the current global market of AR gaming, one can also see a breakdown of the AR games based on their design intent. Usually, the following types of AR games are distinguished:

  • Educational
  • Entertaining
  • Simulation
  • Social

Another essential criterion is where the AR technologies are used. More specifically, the market for PCs and consoles is currently influenced by VR games. Devices developed by Oculus and HTC dominate the PC market, while the PlayStation VR retains its popularity among Sony console gamers. In turn, according to the ReportsInsights, the market of Augmented Reality technologies has a strong focus on:

  • Mobile devices
  • HMDs
  • Smart glasses

That said, the global AR innovators and early adopters are still doing their best to find a perfect fit in the gaming industry. But as mentioned earlier, an apparent reliance on mobile devices is an excellent opportunity for gamers to get acquainted with the current usage of AR. Below, you’ll find the five best AR mobile games you can try out right now.

The 5 Best Augmented Reality Mobile Games

While the mass adoption of augmented reality is still in the early stages, there are quite a few examples of popular AR mobile games. Before Pokemon GO, which is by far the most groundbreaking AR game, most applications were primarily proofs of concept. But now, as AR is getting more prevalent on mobile devices, you can enjoy dozens of mobile AR games. Here are the top 5 augmented reality mobile games players across the globe adore playing.

Pokemon GO

It’s no surprise that when you think of AR mobile games, you think primarily of Pokemon GO. Nintendo’s second-ever release on mobile devices was a real game-changer in the continued adoption of augmented reality technologies. To universal acclaim, Pokemon GO was released in 2016, quickly gathering a loyal audience of millions of players worldwide. What’s the reason behind the success, and how do the AR technologies relate to that?

Niantic, the game developer of Pokemon GO, collaborated with Nintendo and Pokemon Company to release a standalone game in 2016. It incorporates GPS alongside AR technologies to allow players to move within real-life surroundings. Players have to create and customize avatars, moving within the game’s map. The game’s central purpose is to “capture” Pokemons into Pokeballs as you can see and interact with them via AR technologies. You can encounter a Pokemon with your mobile device’s camera and see the real-life backgrounds combined with the AR images.

The game was a huge success, and it is widely believed that it brought augmented reality to a mass audience for the first time. Finance-wise, a report by Statista shows that Pokemon GO’s in-app purchases’ revenue surpassed $904 million across the globe. Because Niantic introduced well-thought game design and progression systems, Pokemon GO is still a popular AR game. If you missed a hype train back in 2016, you can still download this game on Android and iOS. Give it a try to better understand what particular title revolutionized the AR mobile game market just a few years ago.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite

As the game development studio, Niantic hasn’t stopped on the unprecedented success of Pokemon GO. Partly, because the previous game gained a lot of attention thanks to Pokemon’s franchise popularity, they adopted AR technologies into another popular franchise – Harry Potter’s Wizarding World.

This game was launched in 2019 for iOS and Android devices and quickly went viral across the globe. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite allows players to explore the real world’s surroundings, which are placed in the AR environment. It allows players to cast spells, find magical creatures, and collect magical items. The game utilizes AR technologies to bring the Wizarding World to life, allowing players to see and interact with the world around them as if they were really there.

The game progression is designed around exploring iconic Wizarding World locations, dueling dangerous foes, and having fun with magical activities. While some players admired the new Niantic game thanks to the Wizarding World’s lore, others enjoyed the immersive developments of the title. Even though the game isn’t as successful as Pokemon GO and is scheduled to be discontinued on January 11, 2022, it’s still a worthwhile AR experience for mobile gamers.

Zombies, Run!

Zombies, Run! is another huge AR hit that allows players to experience a zombie apocalypse in their environment. The game uses GPS to track the player’s location and overlay objects in their real-world environment. Zombies, Run! is designed to be played while running or walking, and players must use their smartphones to navigate their way to safety. The game is free to download and play but features in-app purchases for additional content.

This exergame (meaning that it incorporates gameplay experience with exercise) was released in 2012. Now, it’s widely regarded as one of the best-working proofs of concept for applying AR technologies on mobile devices. The game’s experience is relatively straightforward, combining jogging with zombie audio sounds. Technically, you don’t see zombies in AR, but you have to collect items, find caches, and rescue friends (if you play together).

From the technical point of view, Zombies, Run! looks less technologically advanced than Niantic’s titles. Still, Zombies, Run! is a unique experience that combines jogging with AR-fueled adventures. Thousands of joggers have enjoyed running from zombies, and you’re welcome to join the crew.

The Walking Dead: Our World

The Walking Dead: Our World is an AR mobile game based on AMC’s The Walking Dead television series. The game was released on iOS and Android on July 12, 2018. The game is set in the same universe as the television series and tasks players with surviving in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies. 

Players can use their mobile devices to locate and kill zombies and collect resources that can be used to build up their base camp. The game also features characters from the television series, including Rick Grimes, Daryl Dixon, and Michonne. Moreover, players can explore their environment to find and rescue survivors, search for supplies, and battle walkers.

The Walking Dead: Our World has everything to appeal to a larger audience, namely a widely-known franchise, polished gameplay, and unique AR experiences. On the gameplay side, it’s a first-person shooting experience, which is significantly enhanced with the “AR Toggled” mode. The player’s selected character is positioned in the real-world surroundings with walkers lurking around when turned on.

What’s more, this game uses AR technologies and shooting gameplay to change how people interact with smartphones. Players have to shoot down lurkers using their phones with the game’s AR mode turned on. Don’t forget that the Walking Dead: Our World also features a multiplayer mode and weekly challenges accompanied by leaderboards. Since this game is packed with content, it’s one of the best AR gameplay experiences on mobile.

Jurassic World Alive

If you’re fond of dinosaurs or Jurassic World as a franchise, this game will be a great match. Jurassic World Alive is one of the best AR mobile games developed by Ludia and published

by Universal Studios. On June 12, 2018, the game was released for iOS and Android. It is set in the Jurassic World universe and allows players to collect dinosaurs and battle other players with their collected creatures.

These creatures can be collected in a fun mini-game by finding them in the wild and using drones to collect DNA samples. You can gather more than 100 types of dinosaurs into your collection! The more you play, the more options will be available. For instance, players get a chance to create new dinosaurs by combining various DNA pieces.

The immersive experience of the Jurassic World Alive is something that caught a lot of attention among Jurrasic World fans. The AR technologies are implemented quite fabulously since you can observe any dinosaur from your collection. Just tap and drag the dino to move around or use a pinch to make it smaller or larger. While the AR mode is not as diverse as in other games, Jurassic World Alive is still a marvelous experience you can get on your mobile device.

Development of Augmented Reality in Games

ar game development
Image from servreality.com

Compared to the mentioned hit games, such as Pokemon GO or Zombies, Run!, the future of AR in gaming still looks promising. At first glance, some future trends of AR gaming might include more realistic and immersive graphics and the extended use of real-world objects and locations. It would also be entertaining for players to enhance the social interaction scale within AR games. One of the best examples is The Walking Dead: Our World, which successfully combines an immersive AR experience with multiplayer options.

In a more futuristic scenario, augmented reality in the gaming industry has untapped potential. A breakthrough is likely to happen, allowing to design and re-create unique experiences that traditional games cannot replicate. One such example is a more accessible adoption of AR technologies for PC titles.

While the VR technologies are different from AR ones, the recent VR PC titles were met with a huge success. If you follow the gaming industry at least somehow, you’ve probably heard about the Half-Life: Alyx release. While the VR titles require VR headsets and powerful-enough PC tech specs to run properly, this technology shows potential for massive adoption.

If one comes back to augmented reality in gaming, the mobile market seems to be the most promising direction. The success of mobile AR games shows that augmented reality serves as a great medium. In particular, it can become a missing link between real-life and digital environments, allowing to design of fascinating experiences. For that reason, tech companies such as NVIDIA and Sony heavily invest in AR/VR research projects to further adopt such technologies into the gaming industry.

Indeed, the AR gaming market is continually expanding, but the quality implementation takes the time and effort of skilled professionals. Here, at WE/AR, we have a team of dedicated experts ready to provide you with a suitable AR solution for gaming. If you need a custom solution or a just consultation in your AR gaming project, WE/AR studio professionals are ready for help.

Just drop us a line at hello@wear-studio.com, and we will schedule a business consultation on your AR gaming project. Regardless of your idea’s complexity, we’ll find out a personalized solution that works for you.

FAQ

What Are the Key Device Types in the Global Augmented Reality Gaming Market?

In the global AR gaming market, there’s currently a solid lean in the direction of mobile devices. IOS and Android smartphones and tablets now hold the top-1 position in popularizing AR games. Tablets are expected to have a significant share of the global AR market.

Is Augmented Reality the Future of Gaming?

There is no doubt that AR is rapidly changing the gaming landscape. With the release of the Pokemon GO app, AR gaming has become a mainstream phenomenon. Developers are now working on delivering new AR games that are more immersive and interactive than ever before.

What Are the Major Types of Games in the Global Augmented Reality Gaming Market?

When reviewing the types of games based on the device type, the global AR gaming market focuses mainly on mobile gaming. However, a different breakthrough structures AR games based on their intention: education, entertainment, simulation, and social ones.

How Can I Play AR Games on my PC?

One way is to use an AR headset, such as the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift, which allows one to see and interact with virtual objects in a real-world environment. Another way to play AR games on your PC is to use an AR app, such as Google Tango or ARKit.