Go! Stop. Go? Every week we're taking a close look at the nascent VR and AR scene with an open letter from a figure working in the industry. This week the UK&IE Country Manager for research body CONTEXT, Jonathan Wagstaff, returns to talk us through why Augmented Reality can't rely on Pokemon GO...
What goes up must come down; a chart showing Pokemon GO's total active users since the start of 2016 now looks like the perfect graphical representation of this aphorism. Having gushed with excitement over the early days of the game's release, many journalists and analysts are now predicting its rapid decline and even that current trends could seal the fate of augmented reality gaming. For those of us who approached the app with more gaming experience than one evening of Mario Kart 64 back in college it was glaringly obvious that Pokemon GO relies heavily on the novelty of seeing fictional creatures on your screen.
Is this Game? I have played Game. This not Game.
Almost all the time a player spends on the app is dedicated to walking and searching for Pokemon to collect. It's perhaps the greatest combination stealth-fitness/hoarding app ever created, but as a video game it lacks depth. The more advanced aspects of the game are poorly explained and even the most dedicated gamer will be pushed online to find instructions to master it. This is a great shame as some of the more detailed dynamics such as elemental attacks will be lost on the majority of players. The app is crying out for both in-game and online official tutorials. In the words of the Angry Video Game Nerd: "What's the most important aspect about any game? Being able to *&$# play!"
You Have Zero Friends
Other than forcing magical creatures into captivity, the app allows battling against other creatures in specific locations, however it is not currently possible to fight another player in real time, making it essentially a single-player experience. If you are going to make the game single-player then it would benefit hugely from a story mode with quests, even if this was pay-to-play content. The developers have stressed that duelling will be introduced but for some players it will be too little, too late. Many analysts (myself included) see the huge potential for Augmented Reality RPG games. Imagine playing out a fantastical adventure in the real world, fighting demons and saving the Earth in your local park. If Niantic needed a marketing ploy to pull gamers back in why not recreate something like Atari's Sword Quest which included real life prizes worth large sums of money? Pokemon GO could be the first ever AR eSport.
All Your Base are Belong to Us
It's very rare now that you'll find a gym in a big city which isn't commanded by several 1000+ CP enemies. To combat über players, it's common for MMORPGs to reset the game world every so often or create new instances; it would be nice for a 500 CP Pidgeot to peck their way to victory without getting barbequed. For those players who don't live in lower Manhattan, gym access can be a real problem. This could be rectified by allowing players to develop home gyms where they could invite over friends to battle, perhaps even giving the option to decorate them à la The Sims. This might sound gimmicky but people love building virtual lairs - just look at Minecraft.
Regardless of what you might have read, the general public does not think that VR/AR gaming is a fad which will fade away fast - this was confirmed by the recent CONTEXT VR survey. However, until we see a major update, Pokemon GO will be remembered solely as a pioneering game but not the killer app which defined the first generation of AR software.
Virtually yours, Jonathan Wagstaff
Jonathan is the UK&IE country manager at CONTEXT, a world-leading data analysis group. CONTEXT offers end-to-end IT solutions collecting both sales and pricing data at every point in the supply chain. CONTEXT recently joined the VR Research Group to look at how VR is being adopted.
If you're a developer working on a VR game right now, you should enter the VR Indie Pitch at VR Connects, the newest addition to our family of games business conferences, taking place in London in January 2017.
Read previous Virtually Yours columns here:1/ Pam Peterson says there are great VR games out there now!
2/ Mike Bergene looks at the VR development community from the perspective of a lone indie game maker.
3/ Bojan Brbora thinks the most interesting VR projects right now are not necessarily games.
4/ Jonathan Wagstaff looks at the numbers around VR's presence in the UK.
5/ Tony Mugavero of Littlstar talks about the 360-degree entertainment experience.
6/ Steve Bristow from Rebellion talks us through how arcade classic Battlezone is being made VR ready.
7/ Up next: Milena Koljensic of DIVR Labs talks about developing their Blue Effect game.
8/ Could be you! Email us: [email protected]