When it came to grabbing the headlines within the technology press at the start of 2016, it was virtual reality that was doing so – having more or less a monopoly of the 'immersive gaming' market. However, things have changed quite a bit throughout the course of this year, with the Pokémon Go app arguably one particularly significant turning point, and now it is augmented reality that the focus has shifted towards.
With all this in mind, this piece will take a look at both and examine which of them is more appealing to developers of mobile games.
First of all, it is very important to understand the basic differences between VR and AR, with VR being a technology that simulates real-world situations and environments entirely artificially. These simulations are generated by computer tech – specifically the Virtual Reality Modeling Language coding language - and via the use of equipment such as goggles or headsets like the Oculus Rift, enable the user to become completely immersed in them. By contrast, AR takes existing real-world environments and overlays them with enhancements created by computer that the user can interact with. For some, the fact that it was not a completely simulated world appeared to make it less exciting, but the very real gaming potential of AR was showcased by the spectacular success of Pokémon Go. Released during the summer, this free mobile app AR game sees the player try to capture, train and fight against Pokémon creatures, with the screen giving the illusion that they exist in the same world as the player. It has enjoyed more than 100 million downloads since release and has spiked the share price for its manufacturer, Nintendo, by 10 percent. No VR game has hit this level of ubiquity and success yet, so could augmented reality actually be the future of gaming instead?
Well, there are actually a lot of similarities between the two: both seek to make the gaming experience more interactive and immersive. In some respects however, augmented reality enjoys advantages over its rival, such as the lack of need for a headset. This arguably gives it greater potential in terms of mobility – as Pokémon Go is demonstrating – whereas the need to shut yourself away inside a headset like the Oculus means virtual reality can only really be used at home. AR devices such as the Glass are also ahead of VR in terms of usability just now, but there is little disputing that VR devices have the potential to be far more genuinely immersive in the way they transport the user from the real world completely. Despite its potential mobility issues however, there are mobile games that could buck the trend and could really make the experience much more exciting and accessible for mobile users. We have seen Sony, Samsung and LG all bring out their own headsets in the past few months as a way of trying to get a foothold in the market. With all companies discussing the release of VR specific games for mobile players such as The Lab, VR Funhouse and Minecraft VR.
Not only this, but games such as online poker can really drive the progression of virtual reality forward. With so many Poker and other gaming companies vying for a share of a highly competitive market, virtual reality is the next logical step as a way to entice players by allowing them to feel like they are playing at a real-life poker table, and allowing them to speak too and see players rather than simply looking at a screen. This means a race to the top in a natural effort to push the quality of VR technology as far as possible by companies as they compete for a larger market share.
At the moment, AR seems to have an edge when it comes to mobile, but at the end of the day, users will decide which of these platforms enjoys the greater success.