Three years ago, Google’s Niantic Labs released Ingress. Since the game’s launch, a lot has changed. The Ingress playerbase has swelled from a couple thousand beta testers to more than 12 million players, with over a million players logging in every day. Frequent live events at locations across the globe encourage hundreds of players to converge at key cities to compete for their faction and the opportunity to influence the game’s narrative. The company launched (and concluded) an alternate reality game for the ancient aliens themed Endgame franchise. Last month, Niantic Labs spun off from Google, forming its own company.
Niantic is making a splash with its transition to independent game developer, announcing that their next collaboration would be with Nintendo and The Pokémon Company, to create a free-to-play mobile game for iOS and Android devices that would bring Pokémon into the real world, coming in 2016. Pokémon‘s core game mechanics will be retained for Niantic’s spin on the franchise, providing players with the ability to catch, trade, and battle their virtual companions. The main difference? With Pokémon GO, gameplay would rely on location data, encouraging players to hunt down specific locations to discover new Pokémon.
Even if it doesn’t provide much insight into what the game will look like on a smartphone screen, the game’s teaser trailer does offer hints at the intended gameplay, with wild Pokémon scattering the virtual landscape similar to how Ingress‘ own portals provide a virtual backdrop to the real world. Players would be able to trade Pokémon with people nearby, or challenge them to battles. The game even hints at what Niantic’s most recent spin on live events would be, with hundreds of players gathered at Times Square for a raid to collectively battle Legendary Pokémon like Mewtwo.
Ingress‘ biggest strength is the social ties it helps forge, and in many ways, the Pokémon model is more fitting for the set of tools Niantic built out. By making certain Pokémon harder to find in certain regions and allowing players to battle each other, there’s a lot more to do at the live events and gatherings that have become a cornerstone of both the Ingress and the Pokemon communities. And with Game Freak’s Junichi Masuda contributing to the project with a focus on connecting Pokémon GO with the main series of video games, there might even be a little blend between projects. It wouldn’t be the first time: a series of Pokémon-themed pedometers allowed players to level up their Pokémon by walking.
Four days before Christmas, fans of alternate reality games got an early present. A member on the Unfiction forums noticed a strange new video and from there, it seemed that a new ARG had begun. The video, an eerie clip that showed a group of German explorers discovering and being attacked by a partially buried television, got the attention of the message board members who looked towards commandervideo.com for answers.
At the apparent trailhead web site, the rabbit hole wound further down as players began getting correspondence from a being named CommanderVideo, a professed alien life form approaching earth and in need of help. Just as it appeared that the puppet masters were prepared to reveal to gamers the reason for the viral campaign and the ARG that grew out of it, a player found a scan of a recently released Nintendo Power article that did the job for them.
While the Internet gives life to ARGs, it also has the power to take that life away, and the scanned article contributed to this game’s premature end. The Nintendo Power article killed the ARG as it exposed the game CommanderVideo was marketing, Bit.Trip: Beat, and this left players upset and frustrated. The players were not alone in their disappointment as Gaijin Games, the game’s creators, were also frustrated with the premature reveal. With the game effectively over, players questioned what went wrong.
Alex Neuse, the CEO of Gaijin Games, was kind enough to answer those questions and discus the promising ARG, its abrupt demise, and the upcoming release of Bit.Trip: Beat for ARGNet.
We aren’t sure if it’s the door to an Alternate Reality Game or just some stealthy viral hype, but Nintendo has put up a couple of very well done websites that seem to be part of the Metroid Prime universe. What with the upcoming release of Nintendo’s Metroid Prime 2: Echoes on November 15th, this is pretty obviously a marketing hook for the game.
Channel 51 is an Art Bell wannabee site looking into all things spooky, mysterious and conspiratorial. The site comes complete with grainy pictures video footage of things like Chupacabras and Species X, along with info about The Rossler Transmission, which is a pretty obvious tie-in to MP2E.
Orbis Labs is linked to from Channel 51, and bills itself as a “Precision Defense & Weapons Technology” company. Along with schematics and test videos of their Battle Sphere weapon, you’ll find a nice juicy Government Offical Login. Other links, such as one to UFO Magazine, appear to be out-of-game (if there is a game here), but you never know.
Don’t know if this will turn out to be an ARG Rabbithole, but it will provide an entertaining read at the very least. We’ll keep you posted of any ARG developments here. For now, we’ll file it under Something To Keep an Eye On.