Mike Suprovici, the head of mobile app developer Explorence, has one simple mission: to make playing outside fun again.
“I grew really frustrated with my friends taking to video games instead of going outside,” Suprovici told GamesBeat via email. “At the same time, I noticed that mobile sensors were becoming just as powerful as those in Nintendo’s Wii, if not more so.
“What if there was a way to bring the video game outside and into the real world using sensor-based play? Could we make these experiences as engaging as the Wii and Kinect? If so, we have the potential to make outdoor recreational activities as fun as popular video games.”
Suprovici cofounded Explorence in 2010 with Bill Gleim and Mark Thompson. The company launched its first two free iOS apps this summer: StreetDash and BullDash. Both use location services on a player’s phone, like Google Places and Foursquare, to present goals and track a player’s progress during a run, but the second game takes the idea a step further.
BullDash draws inspiration from the annual Running of the Bulls event in Pamplona, Spain. “You push start and before you know it, virtual bulls [are] chasing you,” Suprovici said. “Hurry, or you risk being trampled or gored. The longer you survive, the more coins you earn.”
You may be wondering whether BullDash requires you to keep looking at your iPhone to make sure you’re not about to get the horns — which would make your runs way more entertaining for anyone who sees you going by — but Suprovici explained that the game also includes sound cues: “Once you plug in your headphones, the app surrounds you with immersive sound effects. You can hear the bulls as they get closer, crowd cheers, and people yelling.”
Explorence’s titles are the latest entries in the emerging augmented reality (AR) market. Sony and Nintendo include AR cards with their 3DS and PlayStation Vita handheld systems, and games like developer Tecmo’s Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir for the 3DS have built longer experiences around altering the player’s environment. But Suprovici believes that AR has a major flaw: “In its current form, AR changes behavior rather then complimenting it,” he says. “Most of the AR applications today are cool but not that useful.”
Suprovici believes that wearable interfaces like Google Glass will help AR transition from fad to functionality. In the meantime, Explorence has two or three more games coming out this year, and he hopes that apps like BullDash get people off of their couches.
“We want to educate people on the notion of outdoor video games,” he says. “Your smartphone has very sophisticated sensors that enable a wide array of interactive play in the real world. This is just the beginning. Also, as a byproduct, we hope the game will encourage people to exercise. One of the complaints is that running is boring. Running for your life? Not so boring.”
Does this mean that TheMostDangerousGameDash is headed to the App Store? To be honest, I’d probably try that.
VB's research team is studying mobile user acquisition... Chime in here, and we’ll share the results.