Traditionally, MMORPGs (like World of Warcraft) have had nothing to do with the travel & tourism industry, or for that matter ‘real life’! Usually based on a digital fantasy world, the closest they ever came to having a practical real life purpose was in the brief moment when some major businesses & brands set up virtual shop in the digital landscape of Second Life.
But all that could be about to change because this is something different – Google’s Ingress is an MMORPG played out in the real world.
The location-based game, already available on Google Play (though only in a ‘by invitation’ beta version), is played using your phone (Android only for now) and matches in-game elements with real world locations. In that respect it has quite a pedigree. It has been developed by a team led by John Hanke, the guy behind Google Earth, Google Maps and StreetView.
The game plot is that a weird form of mind-controlling energy, which can be tracked using the app, has been discovered in locations all over the world – mostly, listen up tourism marketing guys, in and around well-known public places, creative institutions, landmarks and artworks.
Players join one of two warring sides, the Enlightened and the Resistance, and collaborate with their team mates to gather clues & game objects, unlock new features, and claim territories, in order to either embrace the mysterious energy, or resist it… and thus save mankind.
Ingress is not the first location-based game. It’s birth was foretold, as a deep and portentous video game voiceover might say, with the launch of previous mobile app games like Shadow Cities and Please Stay Calm. But its signficance lies in one word – GOOGLE.
Gamification has become a buzzword recently, but this is ‘gamification on steroids’ and, through Google’s involvement, on a potentially huge scale.
What does it mean for tourism organisations and destination marketers?
It means you must look around your head office for a young ‘gamer’ and tell them to start playing Ingress as soon as they can (that’s a cool work project!). They they will then be able to tell you how to engage and interact with visiting Ingress players, how to promote your destination as ‘Ingress-friendly’ to both the Enlightened and the Resistance. You want to be ready because they will come, and since this is Google and Android – now the largest mobile platform in the world by sales (64%) – they will come in large numbers.
Also, if they don’t come straight-away because your destination is not yet covered by the game, you should be researching to find how you can make that happen quicker. Maybe fam trips for programmers and mappers at Niantic Lab, the game developer? It might be a good idea to be one of the first tourism organisations to get in touch with them, than join the queue later.
Will you be investigating what Ingress might mean for your destination?
If you are a traveller, will you be tempted to play it?
Image: Bigstock/Lilyana Vynogradova