These days, location-based augmented reality gaming pioneer Niantic is best known as the developer behind Pokémon Go, but the uber-popular mobile game was not its first foray into the AR gaming genre.
That distinction goes to Ingress, which was released in 2012 for Android (and later for iOS) when Niantic was a subsidiary of Google. Six years later, the cyberpunk-influenced game is getting a seismic shift of an update.
At the game's EXO5 event in San Francisco, the developer disclosed the forthcoming 2.0 version of the game, dubbed Ingress Prime, with a trailer (see below) teasing a new storyline. Attendees at the event were also given a sneak preview of the game, which one of the attendees captured and shared via YouTube:
The Verge reports that the game will receive a new storyline, a visual facelift, and an overhaul of its backend. In the video embedded above, an unidentified developer notes that the game is moving from JSON to (Google's Protocol Buffers (aka Protobuf).
Players can expect an improved social experience for Niantic's games as well. Last month, the developer closed its aqui-hire of Evertoon to inject new social mechanics into its present and future titles. At the time of the announcement, Evertoon noted that Ingress would be one of the games it would work on.
Much of the cyberpunk-influenced game's premise, such as separating players into factions to virtually battle each other at real-world locations, was utilized in the development of Pokémon Go. In fact, players of both games, myself among them, noted that many of the gym and Pokéstop locations in Pokémon Go were identical to portal locations in Ingress. (Upon further observation, users may also note that some of those locations also mirror landmarks in Niantic's Field Trip app for iOS and Android.)
The year 2018 is gearing up to be a huge year for Niantic. In addition to releasing Ingress Prime and continuing to iterate with Pokémon Go, the developer will bring the Harry Potter franchise to life as a location-based AR game.
With AR is more accessible to mainstream audiences, this is the perfect time for Niantic to circle back to Ingress. Couple the gameplay with its plot, a dystopian future with factions that mirror the divisive political climate in the US today, Ingress could enjoy a surge in popularity beyond its current cult following.