I’ve always been intrigued in the ways that games, especially smartphone-based games, can gather data while making a fun experience for the user. I recently became especially interested in an Android (Google)- based game called Ingress. In a nutshell, “Ingress is an augmented realitymassively multiplayer online video game created by NianticLabs (Google) released for Androiddevices.1” Well, maybe that wasn’t a nutshell. The gist of the game is that people from all over the globe compete to capture real-life landmarks and “claim” areas of a city with other members of the same faction. By triangulating an area with other players, your team lays claim to an allotment of points, based on census data.

On the surface, this is all well and good, but the concepts behind this game could have far-reaching applications to marketing and advertising, as location-based marketing is becoming more and more of a necessity for brick-and-mortar locations to survive in an increasingly digital landscape.

In my opinion, Ingress is far more than a game. It serves as a sophisticated means of helping Google improve their maps, geo-location accuracy, and perhaps is a precursor to the implementation of Google Glass (video below), which uses location data to pinpoint recommendations, directions and real-time activities while interacting with landmarks in a city.

In Ingress, users hold their smartphones to scan surroundings and locate landmarks (“portals”) that are within the range of the phone camera. By allowing Ingress players to explore and locate landmarks using GPS tracking features on their smartphones, Google is increasingly improving its own data (using free labor!), and strengthening their brand with an intriguing premise. 

In order to claim an area, or activate a portal, a player must be within 30 meters of the physical object. This stipulation proves particularly interesting when considering how game designers that follow this mold could team up with stores, amusement parks, zoos, restaurants and more to have proprietary landmarks that can be claimed by participants. Not only that, gaming can make the in-store experience more engaging by offering exclusive discounts to game participants that came into the store. Especially with a competing group of game players, the “landmark” (located at least 30 meters within the store or restaurant), can be reclaimed by numerous participants in the battle to claim the most area (the guiding premise of Ingress). If Ingress takes off (as of this writing it is still in invite-only, beta versioning), businesses all over could theoretically buy their way into the game or similar games, and increase their physical visitors immensely. This paired with exclusive content or discounts can merge the in-store experience with mobile and gaming experiences.

Location-based gaming is poised to thrive in the coming years, and marketers that embrace the concepts of Ingress will benefit. In-store QR codes and digital couponing based on location and market data are slowly gaining steam, and will continue to flourish as smartphone technology expands. Gathering data to strengthen offerings and greater personalize content is at the core of the Ingress experience, and should be a the core of any marketing plan. As Google Glass and other Augmented Reality applications become more commonplace, games and advertisements will further utilize these technologies. Marketers and businesses should take note, and realize the impact of location-based campaigns as part of a multichannel approach.