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Geo-Location RPGs are the Future of MMOs (and Video Games) | 35grove.com | Where Ideas Grow

Geo-Location RPGs are the Future of MMOs (and Video Games)


[Photo by ExperienceLA]

I have something to admit. I used to play a text-based, massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), and my character’s name was Balzario. And I thought it was cool. (Actually, I still think it’s cool.)

Back then, I probably would have been considered a hard-core gamer. I would play for hours on end, attempting to level up in order to learn the coolest spells or to find a unique cloak. As I got older and as my other (real) time commitments increased, I had to leave Balzario to his virtual, text-based world. But I was able to take two things away from the experience: (1) I learned how to touch type since everything was done via text-based commands, and (2) I also learned how deep people invest themselves into these virtual worlds and the extent to which they are willing to go for the coolest new toy (be that a spell, cloak, or something else).

And then came along the iPhone.

Michael Arrington at TechCrunch has been championing the geo-location feature of the iPhone, and has suggested many times that it needs to be introduce into social applications (e.g., networking). He’s even trumpeted introducing it into games. And there’s one company that has: Parallel Kingdom.

I got psyched and downloaded Parallel Kingdom onto my iPhone. It definitely left me wanting more. Why? Because the entire game was geo-location based. That’s when I saw the future of video gaming, particularly RPGs: MMORPGS with a geo-location component.

Imagine this. You live in New York and you’re playing an RPG and you want a new sword for your character. Instead of logging into your computer, you head down to Union Square where you know that your phone will recognize where you are and as a result enable you to battle monsters that when defeated, give you a really special sword. Would you go to Union Square to fire up your phone, log into the RPG, and get that sword?

Possibly – which isn’t a good enough answer in my book. So here’s where I think the finesse of geo-location RPGs (and video games in general) comes into play.

While the concept of a geo-location-based game is cool, it’s going to be really annoying to have to travel around the city you live in just to do something in a video game. That takes the type of commitment to a video game that most people won’t make. However, instead, what if you supplement an online based game with offline, geo-location features.

In our previous example, imagine that you wanted a new sword and you could get that new sword at home, by logging into the game via a computer connected to the Internet, going to a dungeon, and battling a monster. However, imagine if there was an even better sword that you could get by going to Union Square…

Under this model of supplementing online games with geo-location, you can still play the game without having to travel around, but if you are so inclined, you can also pick up cool stuff by getting off the couch and heading somewhere in your hometown. Now imagine you were on vacation. Fire up your phone while there, fight some “exotic” monsters, and find some equipment you couldn’t get in your hometown.

But wait. It gets even better.

Many MMORPGs have annual events. For example, a fair may come to town (in the virtual world) where special items are sold and different events occur. Imagine what would happen if you had to head to an area (e.g., The Sheep’s Meadow at Central Park) to partake. I promise you wouldn’t be the only person there. There’d be a huge group. And the game would all of a sudden become so much more social.

And finally: the business opportunity. Not only do you get a recurring revenue stream, but think about the possibility of bringing people to stores in exchange for getting special items. For example, on Dec 3rd, if you head to your local Starbucks, you’ll be able to get an special piece of armor. Talk about measurable advertising. (Of course, if done too much, this could actually turn gamers off, but I do believe it could be done correctly, particularly if the items given away in-game were so valuable as to cause the players to shrug off the fact that they were just sent to a commercial space.)

Now I recognize I’ve just been talking about wizards, monsters, spells, and swords. And if you like RPGs I bet this will resonate with you. But if not, take a step back and think of a way to apply this to your favorite game.

Hate on RPGs or love them. One thing I’m sure of. The future of RPGs (and games at large) is going to be filled with games that you can easily play at home, but that also have geo-location features that unlock special stages, items, etc.

If you’re a company looking to do this, I’d love to come along for the ride. I’m sure it’s going to be a long and enjoyable one.

One Comment, Comment or Ping


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    Michael E. Gruen

    Nice observation. Honestly, I think LBS-based RPGs might be a viable business opportunity under 5 years. Think about all the 12 year olds whose parents can’t pry away their PSPs and DSs.

    They’re lost to the world. At least we can shape their own expectations for them.

    (Then again, should we?)

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