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Deep inside Ingress, the Google-made game that's paving the way for Glass

Brad Chacos | June 6, 2013
Beneath this world, full of mundane work and chores and ho-hum everyday things, lies another layer of existence chock-full of wonderful, borderline mystical excitement. This almost alternative reality isn't secret, per se--it's just that most people don't know how to really see it.

"I think the third phase is the evolution toward what comes after the cellphone, in terms of wearable computing," he continues. "There are a lot of different things out there. There are things like Google Glass coming, and there's the Pebble watch and Fitbit and various things like that that people are playing around with.

"So there's this whole wave of devices coming that are sort of post-cellphone. We wanted to kind of anticipate that, and be at the forefront of what that next wave of apps will be like. With Ingress, we wanted to make a really fun, location-based game that would kind of take advantage of those devices when they're available on the market."

Although an Ingress Glass app has yet to be created, Hanke hopes to eventually open up some of the technology used in Ingress to encourage other developers to create even more augmented reality apps. Remember Niantic's notable presence at Google I/O?

"That's the long-term goal," Hanke says, "to pioneer the path and make sure Google's a leader in that area."

All about the ads
But again, this is a division of Google we're talking about here. Part of Niantic's long-term goal includes figuring out how to best monetize the ubiquitous computing experience. Nobody wants banner ads and pop-ups screaming half an inch from their eyeballs all day long.

"We're interested in exploring new kinds of monetization that can exist in the world of these apps," Hanke says. He's quick to explain that Google isn't pressuring Niantic to fund itself immediately, though.

"It's more a case of we want to understand what kind of monetization opportunities might be possible in this location-based, mobile, ubiquitous computing world. It's more that we want to understand that than any sort of (monetization) pressure. We view these products as a way to explore this application space, and that includes monetization opportunities. We've been upfront about that."

"Frankly, we've had a ton of fun working with these partners, and thinking it out, and working with these brands to incorporate them into the game that add to the gameplay rather than taking away from it," Hanke says. Promotional partners have proven willing to grope through the dark with Niantic, trying new advertorial methods that tie more directly into the apps. Scoutmob's free daily deals have been integrated within Field Trip. Zipcar and Jamba Juice locations have been turned into Ingress Portals (and sometimes stock other goodies), while physical Duane Reade stores have been outfitted with barcodes that can be scanned to grant in-game weapons.

"By and large, I think we've had success in that regard," Hanke explains. "We've developed characters in conjunction with Zipcar and Jamba Juice that have made their way into the game, so some of the interactions affect gameplay, and others integrate the brands into the story."


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