With the tagline "More Than Meets the Eye," the Transformers franchise was pretty much preordained to have its own augmented reality game, and AR gaming pioneer Niantic has stepped up to fulfill that destiny.
Niantic will now join forces with toymakers Hasbro and Tomy and development studio Very Very Games to build Transformers: Heavy Metal on its Lightship AR cloud platform.
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Based on images of gameplay provided by Niantic, Transformers: Heavy Metal follows the formula of location-based mobile AR centered on exploring real-world locations, collecting virtual characters and resources, and taking part in turn-based battles.
The game is slated for a soft launch "soon" with a global launch before the end of the year. The game already has a website where interested players can sign-up for updates.
"In thinking about franchises that would be incredible to bring to life in AR, Transformers was a no-brainer," said Phil Hong, executive producer, in a statement. "This will be a Transformers game unlike any other, an AR game where you'll get to team up with the likes of Bumblebee and the Autobots in the real world, powered by the Niantic Lightship platform."
Lightship, which was previously known as the Niantic Real World Platform, provides real-time mapping, semantic segmentation, and multiplayer support for next-generation mobile AR gameplay. We can probably expect ARKit and ARCore to assist in the AR experiences for iOS and Android devices.
In addition to Pokémon GO, the reigning king of mobile AR gaming, Niantic also has Harry Potter Wizards Unite, Ingress, and the forthcoming Catan: World Explorers and Pikmin on its roster, as well as other games based on Nintendo properties saved in the pipeline.
Niantic's success with Pokémon GO has also influenced other franchises to take a shot at the genre, with games from Jurassic Park, The Walking Dead, Ghostbusters, and Five Nights at Freddy's in the wild and Hello Kitty planning to launch its own game.
The entrance of the Transformers franchise into the fray follows its favoritism of the immersive technology in promoting the brand, with an AR app and other promotional AR experiences among its previous projects. The timing of the game also aligns with another promotional opportunity in an untitled Transformers film slated to arrive next year.
Still, Pokémon GO remains the lone unicorn among the geocache AR landscape, with none of the other franchises coming close to the sustained success the genre's pioneer has enjoyed and one casualty, the mobile AR adaptation of Minecraft, already closing up shop. Whether Transformers can challenge for the throne remains to be seen.