Wednesday, September 6, 2017

When will AR or VR mash up e-sports with regular sports?

A week ago Next Games revealed that they will soon be releasing a location-based AR game based on the Walking Dead franchise. A promotional video for the game called Walking Dead: Our world can be seen here:

After seeing the video I started thinking how big a potential a game like this could have and tried to predict how well it will do once it's released. With the combination of mobile, AR and location-based technology the most obvious comparison is of course Pokémon GO, which has been a huge success and an unprecedented social phenomenon. 

Zombies of course can't really be a similar family experience as Pokémon GO has been, but it should have its own strengths. One of them is undoubtedly Apple's ARKit offering a more advanced AR experience compared to the floaty Pokémons. Another one is that it is more action oriented and may thus feel more like a game for most of the target audience.

Then again, being more action-oriented may also have its downside. An AR game requires more from the player than a traditional mobile game, and as such can't be that easily played eg. when travelling by bus. And when for example out in a park, compared to casually catching a single pokémon many will probably feel more awkward dodging zombies looking through the mobile phone given there are other people around who are not playing the game. But having a friend or a group of friends playing along would take at least most of the awkwardness away. Therefore for the game to truly succeed, it probably needs to be social not just through online communities, but locally too. Compared to Pokémons, this may be more difficult to achieve with zombies as the violence limits the audience. Then again, within its target audience it might stir up a deeper interest than collecting Pokémons.

So how will the game succeed? The question is a product of a plethora of factors ranging from the magnitude and longevity of its general appeal to ultimately also its monetization mechanic. How well it will do remains to be seen, but thinking about the social side of the game made me wonder when we will see the first serious mash-up of e-sports and regular sports. I mean even though participating in an e-sports event is truly intense and even somewhat physical for the competing players, the physical activity is ultimately pretty much limited to eye-hand coordination. But with VR and AR on the rise and also mobile games like Supercell's Clash Royale and Brawl Stars taking their steps into e-sports, I think it's only a matter of time when we will see the first significant e-sports games with big prizes, where the players have to get every bit (pun intended) as physical as one would in a traditional team sport like football. When that happens, it may very well also broaden the general interest in e-sports as a whole.

A VR-based game may be likely to pioneer into e-sports before an AR-based one, but in principle the pioneering could happen even with teams competing in fighting AR zombies. Now although definitely not easily achieved, a mechanic making that possible would offer a truly social experience!