Nintendo should merge the 3DS’ AR technology with its million selling Pokemon franchise.
Much has been said about the Nintendo 3DS and for good reason. Glasses free 3-D is clearly the system’s biggest selling point, and also the subject of controversy, with consumers complaining of headaches and eyestrain.
That said, the 3-D feels more like a gimmick. We’re much more excited about augmented reality (AR for short), a fairly old technology that manipulates the real world using computer generated effects. You’ve seen it for years in the form of the yellow first down marker in NFL broadcasts.
Turns out, the 3DS can do this and more, thanks to six included AR cards that, when picked up by the cameras, cause popular Nintendo mascots to appear on your dining room table, or transform the floor into a target shooting game. It’s wild stuff, but not necessarily a system seller, at least for the time being.
You can chalk that up to the video game industry’s inability to put AR to good use. The games exist. THQ recently released Star Wars: Falcon Gunner, an iPhone App that uses the camera to put TIE Fighters in your living room, but it’s more of a distraction, as opposed to a full featured (and hardware selling) title.
Star Wars: Falcon Gunner brings you closer to the Star Wars experience.
This is something THQ’s Ben Sipe hopes to change with Fantastic Pets, an upcoming Xbox 360 game that uses the Kinect sensor, similar to Sony’s own EyePet.
“Not only does the Kinect have a camera for AR gaming,” said Sipe, “but also the skeletal tracking ability that makes the experience even more realistic to the players. It’ll be exciting to see where AR gaming goes from here now that the Kinect has had a successful launch.”
On that note, there’s a reason AR games haven’t invaded the mainstream.
“The major issue right now,” said Sourcebits’ Brad Hilderbrand, “is that AR is still very young, so there are tons of bugs, most of which will only be ironed out after we toy with the technology for a while until it’s fully refined.”
Sourcebits’ Vivek Rajanna agrees. “AR is a new concept, and the idea of integrating the real world with contextual info is seemingly slow to develop. Meaningful contextual info is not yet available on the fly, and unlike virtual reality, AR doesn’t create the simulated reality, so it’s more taxing on processors.”
Sipe added, “Perhaps the games weren’t targeted to the right audience. Adults aren’t as impressed with the technology, and kids love to see themselves on a screen, like the security cameras at your local store.”
Fantastic Pets takes the concept of Nintendogs to a whole other level.
Piotr Gajos, from Sourcebits, took this in a completely different direction.
“AR never kicked off simply because it requires the player to go outside.”
This, of course, brings us back to Nintendo. The company encouraged millions of consumers to get off their couches and exercise with Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus, so if any publisher can put AR games on the map, it’s the big N.
The key to success involves merging AR with a proven franchise, something Nintendo clearly has with Pokemon, or more specifically, Pokemon Snap, a 1999 Nintendo 64 video game that challenges players to take pictures of their favourite battle monsters in the wild.
Pokemon Snap 2 could also make use of the 3DS’ gyroscope.
Despite selling over 1.5 million copies, the company never produced a sequel. Having seen the 3DS, we think the system would make a perfect fit for Pokemon Snap 2, a game that somehow incorporates AR as a mini game that inspires players to “collect em all” by switching to the handheld’s cameras and physically going for a walk in search of Pikachu, Jigglypuff and a few hundred other critters that would magically appear in bedrooms, parking lots and the mall. By snapping photos of these elusive animals, players could add them to their collections or engage other users in real time battles. Imagine pitting Wartortle against Charizard, and seeing things play out (through the 3DS screen) at the local supermarket.
For now, it remains to be seen whether Nintendo has big things in store for augmented reality, and we could see it go two ways. Either the company will use it for cheap parlor tricks, or boldly go where no developer has gone before, releasing a big time game that somehow incorporates this exciting tech in ways only dreamed about.
On that note, we think Pokemon Snap 2 would quickly become one of the fastest selling games in history and launch the AR revolution. It just needs a big push. All Nintendo has to do is act before it’s too late.
Going outside to search for Pokemon in the backyard could be a lot of fun.
Unless, of course, someone beats them to it.
“Apple and Android probably have the best chance of success due to the widespread developer support on the two platforms.” Remarked Sourcebits’ Dan Gonzalez. “With all of the App development and creation going on, someone is bound to stumble upon a new/practical way to make use of it, where it’s actually more convenient and logical to use AR than any of the alternative interface methods.”
With this in mind, let AR battle begin.
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