Google's experiment with augmented reality games may become a convention before the end of the year, its creator said at South by Southwest today. Ingress, a conspiracy sci-fi game that pits factions against one another for virtual control of real-world landmarks, continues to grow as it enters its third year. The game has been downloaded more than 10 million times, and regular meetups hosted by Google's Niantic Labs division are drawing thousands of people.
That's why Niantic is now planning a convention, says John Hanke, the former Google Maps executive who leads Niantic. Hanke mentioned the possibility of large-scale meetup for players at the end of a panel where he spoke with James Frey, the author with whom Niantic is collaborating on an Ingress-like game called Endgame that is tied to a series of books that Frey co-authored. Afterward, Hanke told The Verge that "nothing is set in stone," but a convention was "likely." He declined to share additional details.
A recent event in Tokyo drew 5,000 people
The Ingress team has been inspired by similar conventions held for players of Minecraft and Eve Online, Hanke said. And meetups being held around in-game events are already drawing convention-sized crowds. A recent event in Tokyo drew 5,000 people, Hanke said, and an event in Kyoto later this month is expected to draw a similarly sized group.
Ultimately, Google hopes to use the Ingress model to create a platform for location-based gaming. The fact that Ingress is drawing crowds by the thousands two years after its launch suggests the company may be on to something — and a convention would be only the latest indication that it's working.