Ingress melds augmented reality with gaming

When Google’s Niantic Labs launched the beta for a game based on making triangles, it probably didn’t expect it to become such a hot ticket with players virtually the world over. Now, with the game’s official launch to the public, the storylines and real-world mesh that the game creates are going viral as thousands take up the virtual-to-reality quest as Agents of or against XM and Mind Units.

Events in fourteen cities created a sort of finale for the beta this weekend and now the game is open to the public and ready to become the next big thing. What’s more, the platform is merely a first and Google says it will be available to developers to build their own take on the augmented reality ideas behind Ingress.

The game works in a sort of communal way. Ad hoc or dedicated groups of players can work to complete mission points on the map of their area and are often seen in cities holding confabs before setting off in various directions on their bicycles to meet points on the XM map. The map is based on reality – their location – but the points are largely arbitrary (just randomly selected spots to make triangles). In the future, of course, it’s not hard to imagine some of those points being paid-for advertising spots or business entrances.

Further, the public version adds in-game goods that advertisers like Jamba Voice, Vodafone and others have signed on to sponsor.

Although there’s no rollout date for developers, Google and Niantic Labs are working on APIs for use by them so that other games or even add-ons to Ingress may be possible. With its basic Capture the Flag setup and unlimited real-world potential gameplay, the system is ripe for adoption for other game ideas.

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