Recently, a new mobile game took the U.S. (and several other countries) by storm. If you didn't notice groups of young people walking purposefully around your neighborhood with their phones in front of their faces, you certainly read articles or headlines about the newest gaming sensation.
Pokemon GO is a reimagining of the popular Pokemon franchise, made popular by its trading cards and GameBoy games in the late 90s and early 00s. The object of the game (collecting, growing, and pitting the imaginary Pokemon characters against each other) is succinctly summed up by its catchphrase, "Gotta Catch 'Em All."
But whereas the creatures you catch in the game had previously existed only in the world of the game (on the screen or in the cards), Pokemon GO is an app that populates a virtual map of your actual surroundings with features of the Pokemon universe. If you want to play, you have to get off the couch to see this "augmented reality".
So, if the map says there is a certain Pokemon on your front porch, when you open your front door and point your phone at it, the creature is visible on your screen as if it really exists in those surroundings. Even if Pokemon isn't your thing, there's something different about the hype behind this game.
Within the first week of its release, it had smashed records, eclipsing Twitter’s user-base in just three days. It encourages people to get outside and be active. Its ‘Gyms’ and ‘Pokestops’ encourage players to meet up and play together in real life. But the really exciting part about it is its implications for the future of gaming.
While the majority of the gaming hype in the past few years has been surrounding Oculus and other virtual reality-based technologies, Pokemon GO demonstrates the opportunity for augmented reality to take just as much, if not more of a place in gamers’ hearts.
It shows that while mobile gaming has long-eclipsed the basic yet addictive utility of Candy Crush, it may have only just now reached the tip of the iceberg in terms of scale and sophistication. The ability to integrate the fantasy world of the game with the real world around us clearly has people excited.
And with the FCC having just voted to open up spectrum for carriers to start experimenting with 5G, the next generation of mobile networks is nearly upon us. Faster networks undoubtedly will mean more sophisticated mobile gaming.
What do you think the future holds for augmented and virtual reality gaming? Will one be dominant over another? Is Pokemon GO a passing fad or a seminal moment in the history of gaming? Let us know what you think on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.