Mar 092011

I was interviewed by Andrew Collins in December’s Hyper Magazine about Social and Augmented Reality gaming. Hyper magazine is a great game monthly and a regular buy for me with its pretty solid reviews and impartial editorial for the game world as well as some forward looking features. The gaming industry is close to a precipice as games spill out into the real world (as I have blogged about many times before!) so I thought I would publish the article (and my interview on which much of the article is based) this week as the race for the augmented reality, locative game space trophy truly begins and the contestants line up on the starting grid…

  1. Sony with it’s NGP virtual treasure hunts
  2. Nintendo’s 3DS games in the real world AR launch
  3. a multitude of Android AR game apps in development/release and in case you missed it
  4. about to be released the iPad 2 with it’s dual camera support for Augmented Reality locative games and all the iPhone AR apps that will flood across
  5. and of course

Mid to late 2011 is going to be significant – a fun, social, locative augmented reality game nirvana. Perhaps the real battle though is going to be between locked down, TV room, single player console gaming vs open, social, locative casual AR gaming? Interview after the cover…



Traditional game developers are extending the gaming experience beyond what appears on the retail disc and into the social realm, rewarding players for exploring media outside of the console and the PC.

Andrew Collins takes a look at what’s on offer

Casual social networking games have exploded in popularity recently, with a bunch of casual game developers popping out of the woodwork producing low-tech but addictive games. Now traditional game developers and publishers have joined the party, seeking to adapt the trend to their own needs, and their own games.

This bleed of PC and console games out into social networking services has immense potential. There’s a whole world of cool stuff going on right now, and even greater stuff just around the corner – that has the potential to change the way we game completely.

You probably already know the most basic form of this blend of traditional and social gaming: the automatic status update. Many games now will notify your Facebook or Twitter contacts when you accomplish a goal in-game.

It’s unfortunate that this is the most recognisable example of this trend; at best, it’s annoying, and at worst, it’s annoying as hell. Do you really care that your flatmate’s cousin’s boyfriend just unlocked an achievement in FIFA 11? How do you feel when he unlocks 10 in the space of half an hour, flooding your social networking news feed?

Fortunately, developers have realised this and have moved on to integrating gaming and social networking in more interesting ways that suit us all.


Before we look at these developments, it’s worth looking at why the games industry is embracing social networking.

As we found out in issue 204, the market for casual social networking games is booming, generating ridiculous amounts of revenue for those lucky or smart enough to have a finger in this lucrative social pie.

But the learned readers of Hyper are not the only ones who have cottoned on to this fact. Traditional games developers and publishers have seen the sheer number of people drawn into this social gaming trend, and have realised that it could work for them – not as a direct source of revenue, but rather as a form of marketing.

Put simply, every time you tell your 600 Facebook friends what game you’re playing, you’re giving the publisher 600 free ads for their game, and giving the game your own personal stamp of approval. Congratulations! You are advertising space.

Gary Hayes is an expert on the relationship between games and social networking. He has a terribly long bio – far too long to reproduce in full here – with experience in TV, music, virtual worlds, game production, lecturing, and many, many other things. He’s most succinctly described as a `transmedia guru’ – someone who dwells in the overlap of different mediums.

According to Hayes, this venture of traditional gaming into social networking isn’t a short lived gimmick that just a few companies are toying with – it’s now a necessity for developers.

“From an economic point of view, given the massive rise of social games over the last couple of years, and the decline in console games generally (in June of this year there was around a 10% drop in total game industry sales, down to about $6.7 billion), traditional games developers – EA and Ubisoft and so on – are looking at social gaming as really a pretty important part of the mix that they need to be involved in,” Hayes says.

“It’s part of their survival,” he says. “There’s a quote from Alex St. John [DirectX creator and social gaming producer] who says that if a game doesn’t have a social element, it’s going to be dead before it starts out, in the future.”


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Oct 252010

Blame it on the Zeitgeist. I am spending most of my time at the moment developing and conceiving AR Services and Games for clients and my own company MUVEDesign. Also in my lecturing/consultancy roles across transmedia and multi platform in Sydney such as at the Australian Film TV and Radio school earlier in the year and at the moment at MetroScreen, I would say that more than half the projects, being collaboratively created as part of curriculum, have a strong, story based Augmented Reality component. I posted last year on these emerging AR entertainment services but there are still not that many ‘story rich’ examples created for market. So is there a future for these new forms? A hybrid combination of story, social location gaming all delivered on the latest camera based smart phones? Read on for some case studies and a couple of my own examples.

AdTech Tokyo Main RoomFirstly I am presenting on an Augmented Reality panel later this week in Tokyo, part of Ad:Tech and now most folk are ‘caught up’ on simple AR business models and current delivery (see my post from over a year ago) I will be speaking more about a near term future – especially in the area of branded location based augmented reality games and services, adveraugrealitygaming anyone 🙂 I also thought it would be a good opportunity to show one of three developments in this space I am doing called ‘Time Treasure” – a rudimentary, story rich LBARG (location based AR game?!) that I am currently story designing & coding for Android tablets. Short 2 minute taster video embedded below…

Story in Augmented Game Worlds

Without giving the plot away, the structure of this game is quite straightforward. There are ten layers of time from 2050 back to 5000BC that you slowly penetrate following stories, clues and trails all based at POIs (points of interest, precise locations) around your city. The traditional MMOG talking-head quest and story givers are a unique part of this as well as a range of capture & loot quests that require you in some cases to do a little ‘real world’ grinding… ok not too much 🙂 For me the challenge as always is about creating strong ‘call to actions’ and constructing a narrative backbone to make it worth your while walking and in some cases running around town! I will do a post when this reaches a full working pilot.

Speaking of early trailers it is a shame that Ghostwire, which has been around the blogosphere for over a year and that I have written about a few times, is now shelved while they find another publisher. I think this may be a platform issue being created only for DSi (tablet, iPhone 4 anyone), but the horror or crime genre this is set in is obviously rife for the taking, in this locative form…hence perhaps why we are starting to see the release of simple AR locative story services appear more regularly in this genre, such as zGhost 2 for the iPhone, iTouch and even iPad…ready for Halloween but I think they missed a ‘branded entertainment’ trick, in that it wasn’t tied into the release of Paranormal 2 film?

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Oct 102010

It has been a year since I spent a lazy Sunday creating & coding my little Social Media Counts flash app. Since then a bunch of statistical and functional updates, millions of impressions across the web, thousands of embeds on sites around the world and hundreds of comments and requests. A few folk have asked for an iPad version, in fact I originally had the proportions of the iPad in mind when I coded it, so, drum roll, here is the iPad version I have lovingly objective-c coded and placed on the App store (via my company MUVEDesign of course)

So GET IT NOW via the iTunes App store now or go to the Apple App preview page.

This is the first of several ‘home grown’ non-client iPad apps that are awaiting approval/final design for the store. Most fall in the social, transmedia, game, philosophical reference plus media education and music toys – some based on my Randomizers, one on the quotes of the decade and a few interactive versions of my transmedia infographics/diagrams. Several will be free but some of the more ‘code’ intensive ones will be in the 99c range. so you have no excuses 🙂 A few hundred have already been sold in a couple of days too.

1.0 RELEASE VERSION 1.0 – Description and screen shot

Social Media Counts is an amazing and hypnotic real time display of eighty four user, content and business metrics across social media, games, mobile and traditional or heritage media. The data is based on actual reported numbers which are listed in the embedded info panel and this rolling ‘count-up counter’ is a projection forward in time based on these real numbers. With over 40 million impressions already of the embeddable flash version across the web this counter gives real insight into the tsunami of content, proliferation of devices and the money being made from a range of entertainment and services.

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