local multiplayer AR gaming

Reimagining Local Multiplayer Gaming in Augmented Reality

In this article, I want to talk about a vision that I have about the rebirth of local multiplayer games using Augmented Reality and its supporting technologies.

I’ll start with an overview of current and upcoming AR technologies and then share my future vision with you.

Local Multiplayer AR Game Are Now a Reality

The idea behind technologies like Google’s Cloud Anchors is to allow users to share AR experiences. This technology uses the phone’s camera to create a local mapping of the environment based on the device’s motion. That data is then hosted in the cloud and can be used by multiple users in order to establish a common frame or reference across users and multiple devices.

This opens up a door for different types of local multiplayer games and other types of collaborated and shared experiences between users in the same location. The result is that two or more users will get to share the same scanned virtual environment and see virtual objects in the same location. In Cloud Anchors, the location of virtual objects is relative to that anchor, which described a fixed location and orientation in the real world space. Virtual objects that positioned in the space will be relative to one or more anchors.

This technology will allow developers to create new types of local multi-user experiences, and obviously, this will lead to a rain of new multiplayer AR game experiences or allowing current single-player AR games to receive a local multiplayer game mode that is based on that technology. Furthermore, Cloud Anchors can run on both Android and iOS, thus enabling multi-user AR experiences across both ARCore and ARKit compatible mobile devices.

Now, coming to think about it, playing AR games with or against other players is a great experience. I personally prefer playing multiplayer games than singleplayer games. I love the social experience, playing with other people who enjoy playing the same games that I enjoy playing.  However, it’s important to keep in mind that online multiplayer games are way more accessible than local multiplayer games. Just ask yourself when was the last time you actually played a standard local mobile game with someone physically near you? Probably not a lot, let alone having someone that has a device with the minimum requirements to run those type of AR games.

There are quite a few local multiplayer AR games out there, but I found myself playing more the online multiplayer mode than finding someone who will want to play the same AR game that I want to play, at the same time and at the same location. So although the technology is exciting by itself, the game will need to be exciting and popular enough to lead to the point where you get to the point where you’ll have a large player base so you can easily find people near you to play with.

The Rebirth of Local Multiplayer Gaming

This may lead game developers to rethink the core concept of their games. If not, it will end up just being yet another secondary game mode in their game which won’t excite anyone to dive into.

On the other hand, there are some games that are perfect for this type of local multiplayer AR games. I think that we get to see some popular developer companies bringing their current games into augmented reality.

Let me give you an example. You remember that Street Fighter II AR gameplay demo that was developed by the same dev who made Mario AR.

Well, this is a good example of a type of augmented reality local multiplayer game that can be very popular and get users excited about meeting other players and compete against them locally. I can already imagine players having physical meetups and local competition in the streets, in venues and in parks. I imagine location-based competitions, where users compete to become champions in specific regions. This can even be turned up to be a popular eSport game as far as I can see it. It might lead to popular fighting game developers like NetherRealm Studios (Mortal Kombat) and Capcom (Street Fighter) releasing their augmented reality version of their arcade fighting game.

I also see an option for those fighting games to allow more than just 1-vs-1, so more players can join together and play locally in competitive and cooperative matches.

Super Smash Bros. like brawler fighting games can also be great in local multiplayer AR. Nothing stops Nintendo to release an AR version of their Super Smash Bros. game for ARCore and ARKit.

Obviously, this doesn’t end up with just fighting games, but I see the rise of these type of games getting a big boost when large companies bring their own popular multiplayer games into AR.

Having location-based competitions can be very beneficial for marketing purposes. So imagine having a competition in different stores, shopping malls or venues. Some brands might host a competition in their own stores to promote different products. Imagine a Street Fighter AR competition taking place in Walmart store in a specific location in the US with in-game prizes for winners and viewers who come to watch it locally.  Until now, the most popular way to watch people playing games is online via Streaming services like Twitch and YouTube, but this might turn out to be another popular and social way for fans of a particular game to hang out, play and watch other people play together.

I think that all this will give rebirth of local multiplayer gaming.  There is no need to bring your computer or having a large computer setup like in a LAN game party, people will just need to bring their own mobile devices which is much more accessible.

I also posted it on my Twitter, where I see location-based matchmaking options, allowing users to find nearby users where they can play against and meet up. There will be in-game social hubs that allow users to find physical-based locations where people play local multiplayer AR game together.

I can definitely see all this happening when the right game comes up and able to push this vision in the right direction. I do hope that some developers are reading this and I do hope that this post might ignite them to try to deliver local AR experiences that can promote this type of amazing gaming ecosystem.

What do you think about all that? Is this can become a reality in AR?

If you were inspired by this article, please don’t forget to share it with your friends and peers. The goal is to inspire developers to develop great new AR experiences. Thank you.