31Mar
Pogs (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Pogs (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Will Moore is Head of Social Media at the wonderfully creatively named Wonderful Creative Agency. He specialises in creating holistic web environments across every conceivable sector and also works on viral marketing ideas and email campaigns.

When he is not doing that, Will is a keen amateur photographer and videographer, and can often be found around the UK coastline, documenting his great loves – the sea and the UK surf scene.

However, this month, Will visited his parents’ place, and it was there he was struck with inspiration for this post on the future of location-based games.

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As I rifled through my parents loft at the weekend, I came across one of my favorite childhood toys, Pogs.

Pogs were discs that came in fruit juice containers. One would pile them up face down, and hurl a larger, heavier disc (called a ‘slammer’) at the pile, aiming to make as many of them flip over as possible. The winner was the player whose throw left the largest number of Pogs face up.

Finding my old Pogs got me thinking. Fifteen years ago, I was satisfied throwing a big plastic disc at a pile of smaller discs of cardboard.

My, how things have changed. I now have an iPhone, on which I have an app that lets me throw virtual paper into virtual bins!

Ok, maybe things have not changed that much, but one has to wonder; we have seen such technological progress in the games industry over the past decade and a half, what is next for gaming?

I am not referring only to computer games here. There is a real trend that indicates people are fed up with having a virtual life and a physical life – they want the two to coexist.

One key area where this trend is gathering speed is location-based gaming.

At this month’s SXSW Festival, Austin, Texas was abuzz with talk of location-based gaming and services.

What is it that makes location the key subject of 2010?

For the first time, hardware has become advanced enough to accommodate all the different technologies needed for location-based services to truly be great. A GPS module, a fast and mobile Internet connection and an intuitive interface are all that is necessary for the whole lot to come together.

Modern mobile devices, namely the iPhone and other Android and Palm phones, combine those three elements in a device small enough to fit in your pocket.

However, having the technology to make it happen in theory is one thing, but being able to do it is quite another.

Foursquare and Gowalla are two names that are battling each other for supremacy in this new market. The technologies on which they are based will undoubtedly soon yield devices for use in our daily lives, but they will have to break out of technology-savvy communities and into the ‘real word’, as Dan Fletcher wrote in Time magazine online last week.

Soon, there will be no need to ‘check in’ to locations using an app, it will happen automatically when we enter a building. It is only a matter of time before our fridges and televisions are pulling in location-based information.

So back to those Pogs, and their future in a geo-tagged world.

Three things make it look like the days of humble plastic-and-cardboard discs may be gone for good, as super-smart, location-based, multiplayer interactive experiences emerge.

The first is creativity. Anyone from genius teenagers to software professionals can dream up any game they can engineer and offer it via the iPhone App Store. Google’s open-sourced Android platform will follow a similar format. The possibilities are as unlimited as their imaginations.

The second is the sheer size of the gaming market, which is the entertainment industry’s largest and predicted to be generating US$68 billion per year worldwide by 2012. The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday quoted estimates that the App Store is already making US$1 billion per year.

The third is the boom of social networking sites, which have only added fuel to the extraordinarily lucrative flames of the gaming industry. All manner of games – from Farmville to Mafia Wars – have achieved astonishing popularity on social media platforms like Facebook.

All of this looks like bodes well for gaming buffs and lovers of all things mobile, but badly for poor old Pogs.

Watch this space for more posts from Will on the future and importance of location, location, location.

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