You see, it's been two years since Pokemon Go became an international success. But, oddly, it hasn't inspired a surge of AR apps with location-based gameplay. Although we saw Apple and Google introduce AR platforms, making it easier for developers to build AR apps, many of the first experiences to appear were simple apps that merely allowed you to, for instance, place virtual furniture in your real-world environment.
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These apps don't have location-based gameplay, like Pokemon Go offers. Think about it: with Pokemon Go, you travel around your neighborhood and see actual landmarks and buildings and sites be turned into in-game AR experiences, like gym battles. Developer Niantic was able to offer this sort of gameplay thanks to its previously existing trove of user-generated mapping data from the sci-fi, location-based game Ingress.
Most developers don't have access to that sort of mapping data, however, so it's very difficult for them to offer location-based gameplay. But that's about to change, and in fact, it has already begun to change. As of today, Google is announcing that it’s opened up its ubiquitous Google Maps platform to allow game developers to more easily create Pokemon Go-like gameplay. The new initiative is composed of three parts.
First, app developers who sign up will have access to real-time Google Maps data. Second, Google is introducing a new software development kit for Unity, a popular game engine, so that those developers can incorporate Google's mapping data into their games. The Unity SDK does all of the heavy lifting, according to Google. No Google Maps expertise will be required. And finally, Google is launching a new API.
As a result, developers can build gameplay experiences around real-world locations. That means things like real-world statues or highways can be manipulated and transformed into something new. Imagine a statue morphing into a ghost that you can catch. If that sounds familiar, it's because Google has already partnered with developers on three location-based titles, including the new Ghostbusters World.
The other two are Jurassic World Alive and The Walking Dead: Our World - both of which look a lot like Pokemon Go, as they blend augmented reality with location-based gameplay. Google, which will talk more at Game Developers Conference next week, said it's been working on this effort ever since Pokemon Go appeared and it saw a sudden uptick in app developers looking to leverage Google Maps data.
So, what does all this mean? Well, in a nut shell: Google has opened the floodgate to more AR apps with location-based gameplay.