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 Ogmento. Its recent game, Paranormal Activity: Sanctuary, is a location-based, augmented reality (AR) enabled, multi-player mobile game. Using the viewfinders of their smartphones, gamers can view paranormal activity layered over their surrounding environment and join a massive multi-player game that requires completing location-based missions and casting spells on real-world locations. Missions are generated in any real world location, asking players to complete challenges in order advance the story line, gain new spells, and earn status points. The game can be played anywhere in the world, enabling multiple players to compete and collaborate in the global battle between good and evil. PSFK spoke with the CEO and co-founder of Ogmento, Ori Inbar.
Please provide a brief introduction about yourself and your company.
My name is Ori Inbar and I am the CEO and co-founder of Ogmento, a developer and publisher of location-based, massively multiplayer, augmented reality games.
Ogmento is one of the first venture-backed companies conceived from the ground up to develop and publish augmented reality (AR) games; games that are played in the real world. Our vision is to make games that inspire players to get off the couch and interact with the real world.
I first got into AR in 2007 after many years in software development in startups and large corporations, I realized my kids spend most of their free time in front of a screen playing video games and consuming content off the internet. I thought, what if we extract what attract kids to video games and bring it into the real world? I documented my journey into the wonderful world of AR on my blog gamesalfresco.com which became one of the most popular blogs for AR games, and in 2009 felt the time was right to bring this amazing technology to the masses and co-founded Ogmento together with veterans from the game industry as well as award winning AR scientists.
Please tell us about Paranormal Activity. What is the idea and goal behind the game?
The back story is: demonic activity has been unleashed all over the world, and players need to create sanctuaries in their favorite neighborhood locations, to protect themselves from losing their sanity. Missions are generated in real world locations nearby such as cemeteries, hospitals, and convenience stores – and players who complete missions in these locations advance through the story line, gain new spells, and become more powerful. When casting a spell to create sanctuaries, there is a neat feature to boost your power – draw a pentagram on a paper and point you phone to it: A line of fire tracks your hand-drawn sketch and connects you with the dark power of the pentagram generating a stronger sanctuary. You can also scan your area in camera view to hunt for ghosts capture them and post on facebook for bragging rights. If you let your guard down, you may lose your sanity and succumb to the evil side. Actually, playing on the dark side could be a lot of fun. The game can be played anywhere in the world, but really takes off when multiple players compete and collaborate in the global battle between good and evil. Whether good or evil, at the end of the day you want to become the “top dog” with the most power in your city, among your friends, or on a global level.
The players reaction was phenomenal. Many hard core fans of horror games and movies loved the idea of extending their passion from the couch to the real world. Now they are able to experience a horror story any time of day, anywhere they go. In fact, many players described the game as addictive – but in a different way than traditional games: they do not tend to sit on the couch for hours playing the game – but rather play it in short bursts throughout their day – on average 7-10 times a day. Every time they move around their daily routine, commute, shop, or do errands – something in their brains triggers them to launch the game, claim a location, complete a nearby mission and thus advance in the game.
Interacting with a hand drawn pentagram was reported as a cool new innovative game mechanic. But players always surpass our wildest imagination. A fascinating player anecdote found on the facebook game forum told the following story: I was walking one night in the snow while playing Sanctuary, and realized I forgot my pen and paper for drawing the pentagram…and panicked. When I got my senses back I realized I could “sketch” the pentagram from a few twigs I collected and I was quickly back in the game – kicking demons ass. When players look around and interact with their environment as part of the game – we feel like we our vision is becoming a reality.
Now that the 3rd sequel of the movie is out we see more than a thousand new players joining daily.
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?
Recently a handful of location based games have made their way into players’ hands. They are much richer and deeper than what we have seen in the past with geo caching type games and are more appealing to the masses. These games tend to be successful when they do not require players to trek far from their daily routine, but rather take place where people are present anyway. On the flip side these games have to be careful not to disconnect themselves from the surroundings. If players find themselves playing such games on the couch, at home, while staring at the small screen without being aware of their environment and without interacting with it – they may end up like traditional games and miss the chance to change where and when people play. Location-based games combined with augmented reality have the potential to extend the time and space where people play. This is poised to make our daily routine more interesting and engaging with the world, and along the way possibly transform the gaming industry.
Our upcoming game, NBA: King of the Court, is currently in public beta in several countries and will be published worldwide within the next few weeks. It introduces a simple addictive game mechanic (shooting at basketball hoops located in real locations in your neighborhood) as well as an engaging social strategy element (competing over the high score in these courts) which we believe will appeal to a mass audience. Enabling people to experience their beloved NBA franchise (assuming the lockout end is imminent ;) anywhere they go, at any time – has the potential to become a large scale use of this new type of game play. At least this we are seeing in the initial tests.
To read more about what is going on in the gaming space today, read about our new report on The Future of Gaming.