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Google is touting the success of its Google Maps gaming platform, which launched a year ago to bring location-based features to more mobile games.

Since that time, five games such as NBCUniveral and Ludia’s Jurassic World: Alive have launched using the Google Maps platform, which can animate a navigation map in the same style that the game developer wants for a game.

Google said in a blog post on the eve of next week’s Game Developers Conference that it has concluded that location can unlock augmented reality and social gameplay, can increase engagement and retention, and can help bring new life to games that were originally designed without a location component.

In games, the richer the world, the more immersive the game. The earliest video games (think Pong, 1972) were limited to flat, two-dimensional screen. But even so, Pong was awesome. But gamers today want more. Detailed storytelling and immersive world building are a now a standard in games. This means there’s increasing expectation for game worlds to be realistic 3D environments on larger scales, Google said.


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At the same time this shift was happening in gaming, smartphones, big data, and machine learning have propelled maps from a flat image on paper to a highly personalized, living model of the world. And it was at the intersection of these two things that Google saw the chance to build something to enable developers to create a whole new class of gaming experiences.

Location unlocks AR and social gameplay

Above: Jurassic World Alive is a location-based game.

Image Credit: Ludia

Rich, dynamic, and contextual location data allows game developers to augment and enhance social and AR gaming experiences, Google said. This is why three of the top 10 ARCore games in the last year were built on Google Maps Platform.

When it comes to location-driven social, players can not only team up, but also have their unique location enrich multiplayer gaming. Next Games learned how powerful this can be in The Walking Dead: Our World. In the game, players form groups, known as guilds, and are able to send flares to allow other players in the same guild to virtually join them at their location to complete missions around the flare.

Next Games director Riku Suomela said, “If we didn’t have geolocation, the current system with social wouldn’t work.”

In fact, 95 percent of the game’s daily active users are in a guild, and three out of every four players play the game with friends, so social engagement is high.

Location increases player engagement and retention

Incorporating location into a mobile game helps developers make game play more immersive and more personal. Every new location gives players a chance to engage with a game differently.

For example, players hunting monsters could find toothier ones near their dentist office or hungrier ones around restaurants. A real example of this is Ludia’s Jurassic World Alive. The developers found that players opened the game twice as often as Ludia’s non-location-based games. Similarly, Next Games’ The Walking Dead: Our World achieved a 54 percent higher seven-day retention rate compared to the Top 50 U.S. games average. When games connect with players where they are, in-game experiences become more immersive and this translates to a drastic increase in engagement and retention.

Location can add new life to an existing mobile game

Above: Monster Strike is still huge in Japan … but it’s dead here in the U.S.

Image Credit: Mixi

When the company started building Google Maps platform’s gaming offer, the idea was to give developers the tools to build brand new real-world games. But thanks to creative partners, Google realized the possibilities are even broader. Real-world games don’t need to be built from scratch, as location intelligence can bring new life to existing games, as well.

Mixi recently added a map mode to Monster Strike. In 2018, it became the highest-grossing mobile app of all time. Monster Strike was already a popular game but when Mixi began re-engaging their user base with location-based in-game features, they saw a 30 percent increase in daily sessions per user, plus 50 percent of users who engaged with the location component played the game for five or more consecutive days.

With Mixi, Google learned that game developers don’t need to wait for their next game release to start incorporating location into their gameplay. It can be a powerful new dimension to an existing game.

Location-driven features and real-world gameplay do a lot more than just add to the experience of a game. They redefine it, Google said.

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