As we begin research for our forthcoming ‘Future Of Gaming’ report, the PSFK consulting team has noticed that improved GPS capabilities available on mobile phones and other devices are being leveraged by game developers to transform real-world settings into game environments, often integrating audio and/or augmented reality into their platforms to create immersive experiences.
One company operating in this space is Six to Start. Their game, Zombies, Run!, is a soon to debut augmented audio running game for the iPhone, iPod Touch and Android that challenges users to rebuild civilization after a zombie apocalypse by completing location-specific tasks while running in the real world. Users cue the app and don headphones to collect medicine, ammo, batteries, and spare parts which can be used to build up and expand their base — all while getting orders, clues, and a story through their headphones. Missions last around 20-30 minutes and can be played in any city. The platform additionally records the distance, time, pace, and calories burned during all runs, and may soon include RunKeeper integration. PSFK spoke to founder Adrian Hon about his work.
Please provide a brief introduction about yourself and your company.
My name is Adrian Hon. I’m the CEO and co-founder of Six to Start. We specialize in creating game-like stories and story-like games for the web, mobile, and real world. Since 2007, our clients have included Disney, the BBC, Channel 4, and Penguin, and Six to Start has won multiple awards including Best of Show and Best Game SXSW.
Please tell us about Zombies, Run! What is the idea and goal behind the game?
Zombies, Run! is an ultra-immersive running game for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and Android. We deliver the story straight to your headphones through orders and voice recordings – and back home, you can build and grow your base with the items you’ve collected. It’s an incredibly easy game to play, but it’s got plenty of depth.
The idea is that we want to make running–and exercise in general–more fun and more captivating through game-play and story. But it’s not the ‘gamification of fitness,’ other apps are doing that, and they’re doing it badly. There is nothing fun about adding badges and points and levels on their own. We’re all about creating an incredibly atmospheric and compelling world that the player wants to discover more of.
What has been the audience reaction? Can you share any stats around user engagement?
Zombies, Run! raised $73,000 on Kickstarter from 3500 backers –it’s the most successful and most popular video-game on Kickstarter, ever. We had front page stories on Wired, BoingBoing, Laughing Squid, and The Next Web, and hundreds of thousands of hits to our site, and it’s all been organic. We didn’t need to spend a single penny on advertising or marketing, because the concept is so strong and clear. This is a game thousands of people have paid for, sight unseen.
Right now, we’re still in development and are due to launch in February 2012. We have plenty of press lined up and we’re anticipating a big audience and very deep engagement.
We have noticed that improved GPS capabilities available on mobile phones and other devices are being leveraged by game developers to transform real-world settings into game environments, often integrating audio and/or augmented reality into their platforms to create immersive experiences. What do you think? Do you see this trend manifesting on a larger scale?
I think most of it isn’t very good. The only really popular AR game I can think of is Shadow Cities, and that’s more location-based than AR. The rest are basically toys and tech demos. There are two problems. Firstly, on the development side, it has been comparatively expensive to develop AR games (as compared to traditional 2D action or puzzle games). That should change as AR SDKs mature and improve, but for the moment, most of the games have been made to show off the tech rather than being of lasting fun.
Secondly, we’re only now at the point where enough people have good enough phones to support decent AR. I imagine most iOS developers would prefer to target iPhone 4+ due to the A4 chip and graphic acceleration.
In other words, there’s been plenty of hype so far, but not many games making that much money. It remains to be seen whether gamers even want to walk around looking at the world through their phone – it sounds awfully tiring to me, and more than a little stupid. But like I say, that will change and people will come up with better – and almost certainly, simpler and more fun – ideas.
To learn more about what’s going on in the gaming space today, order a copy of PSFK’s Future of Gaming report.