Google’s Augmented Reality Game ‘Ingress’ May Be the Path to New Business Opportunities

November 26th, 2012 by Search Influence Alumni

Being a gamer myself, I think seeing video games developing new uses is pretty nifty. We’ve all been exposed to the concept gamification by now — most people don’t call it that, but sites like Foursquare and Yelp! have relied upon the tactic to make their services a lot like level-building in games. Social media ranking site Klout relies heavily (and shamelessly) on the same gimmick. It’s a simple way to draw out the kid part of us that wants to make it to the next level before bedtime, and it works like a charm. But gaming has more relevant applications than just engaging consumers, as Google is proving with its newest offering.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Google mobile group Niantic Project, then you may be a bit confounded the first time you look at Ingress. The multiplayer game uses Google Maps and local data assets to connect online and offline universes based on real life places. In short, it’s augmented reality. In this imaginary world, there’s a new, mysterious power that could potentially be very dangerous. One group, “The Enlightened,” embrace it, while the other, “The Resistance,” struggle against it. After you choose a side, you can participate by capturing portals that are in public places. Once you capture them, they don’t stay captured for good, which means the struggle to hold territory must always be maintained.

How does such a fantastical project relate to business? Well, for Google, it makes them look insanely ambitious — but we already knew that. On a more broad view, Ingress offers opportunity for businesses that fall into the game’s zones. Google’s John Hanke told Marketing Land that Google may make API’s available so that other developers could build augmented reality games on top of Google Maps, but those plans haven’t come to fruition yet. Sponsorships have, however, and Jamba Juice and Zipcar are already signed up to work with Ingress. How they will be promoted in-game has yet to be revealed, but it makes it clear that the option is there. The idea of entering a business to scan a certain item comes to mind, or messages hidden in selected locations — encouraging the player to interact and engage with the brand.

Ingress displays something of the spirit behind geocaching, but with an intense story, which means it will attract an imaginative and passionately dedicated userbase. The game is only playable in a closed beta for Android for now, but since it’s worldwide, thousands of players all over the world are already participating. It’s essential to cooperate with others in order to secure an entire area, so you can’t work alone. It still remains to be seen how exactly it can work, but considering how innovative the product is is, I think the possibilities are substantial. Between Google’s strong userbase and a suite of already-developed systems like Maps, visual search, augmented reality and the Android OS, players have a huge array of ways to engage with the game’s world — not to mention the sponsors that are integrated into it.

What do you think of Ingress? Would you use it to advertise your own business?