Pokemon GO might be the game that finally made it money, but Niantic Labs’s real groundbreaking work was on Ingress, perhaps the first worldwide “augmented reality” mobile game. It was a hit for a small niche market when it launched in 2012, a market that may have felt a bit abandoned when Niantic turned its eyes on Pokemon GO. The company is now going back to its roots to take the lessons from both of its games to breathe new life into the game. Welcome to Ingress Prime.
Put away any expectation of 3D objects superimposed on the real world. That’s not the kind of AR game that Ingress or Ingress Prime is. It takes AR to its most literal meaning, adding virtual information on top of real-world geographical locations.
In this particular case, that virtual information comes in the form of Exotic Matter or XM, the fictional material that stands at the heart of the game. In many ways, Ingress Prime remains unchanged. It is still a game of tug of war between two opposing factions over control of that material.
What has improved, Niantic says, is the interface and onboarding of new players. Ingress has always had the image of being a geeky game very few could comprehend, with a mobile app that speaks to that nature. Ingress Prime has been redesigned to make it easier for the masses to understand. Which ultimately means new recruits for both factions.
There’s also some new AI elements involved, of course. Agents and AI programs will work together to shape the storyline of the game. Which is, of course, not written in stone beyond the basic premise. Ingress has also grown out of its mere gaming roots and will have in-fiction video series and even an anime next year.
Ingress Prime is now available for both Android and iOS. To give veterans an advantage in the redesigned world, they will be able to “recurse” and reset their levels and even choose new factions, all without losing their badges. They actually even get a new badge that tells everyone they’re an old-timer. It remains to be seen if these changes will be enough to take Ingress Prime to mainstream mobile gaming, at a time when mobile gaming is largely defined by MOBAs and IAP money grabs.