Niantic Labs has been experiencing great success with its location-based game Ingress, drawing large crowds to regular events and creating a dedicated fan base. Downloaded more than 5 million times on iOS and Android devices, Ingress, the massively multiplayer real-world mobile game, has seen players from around the world come together to overcome tremendous odds and achieve amazing goals. Googleâ€™s Niantic Labs (an in-house startup) has been producing two shows based on the game with excellent response from the fans. The shows, Ingress Report and Ingress Obssessed, are posted on YouTube, and offer two different views of the Ingress game. Ingress Report is for the hardcore player, being an inside news report of the events in the game. By contrast, Ingress Obssessed is designed to introduce people to Ingress, following the adventures of two sisters as they play the game.
Ingress Obsessed Season 2 is packed to the brim with these candid moments of players banding together for an adventure of a lifetime, according to Niantic. John Hanke, founder of Niantic Labs, spoke with the [a]listdaily about Ingress and its future.
These shows are obviously done with great care and a lot of effort. What lead to the decision to create these shows around Ingress?
When we created Ingress Report, which we’ve been doing for well over a year at this point, it really showcased the player community. After we launched Ingress we really didn’t know what to expect. We really felt that the strongest thing about the game was the community it engendered. We felt like a show that brought that to the forefront, where we could show other players playing the game, we could feature activities and missions that people had gone on, that would be a great way to spread the word about the game. The Ingress Report had a second mission to guide people along this rather complicated narrative. Because we tell the story in the form of an alternate reality game, it comes out piecemeal. Which can be very engaging, very deep and very cool, but it’s also complicated. So we developed the Ingress Report, which lets us summarize and recap and and allow people to keep up with the story.
Ingress Obsessed came out of the idea to take one aspect of the community and go further with it. That is the aspect of the user mission, these cases where users get together and they decide it would be really epic or awesome to go do a specific op together, and they get together and they plan these things, sometimes for months, and then they go out and execute them. It can mean international travel, it can mean all kinds of crazy logistics. We love hearing about those things. We kept hearing about ever grander and crazier missions people were going on, so we said ‘It would be great if we could capture this on video.’ We worked on it for a while and developed this idea for a show, there are these two girls who are sisters, they meet up with players, and they themselves are players. Really they’re actresses, but within the context of the show they are players. The real players accept them as players, take them inside their planning sessions, and basically they become part of the team.
What do you think these shows are doing for you?
By showcasing the community they are putting our best foot forward, attracting new users for the game, as well as energizing our existing players. Users love seeing themselves, and they love seeing people they know — it’s a great way to solidify the existing user base. They are our best way to explain to the world what’s cool about Ingress. It’s hard to explain it to other people, and by bringing it to life in the form of a video with an attractive, compelling host, some narrative, some drama, we’re very happy with that in the way it communicates to the world. We have a very high social engagement rate, which is something we measure through comments, and a very high Like rating, so we know people are enjoying the content. We’re frequently picked up by media outlets when they’re writing about Ingress. They really show what we’re doing and what’s fun about it.
What other marketing efforts for Ingress are you doing, besides these shows?
We put on these events, we call them Anomalies, we have them every other weekend in two cities, typically one in the US and one elsewhere in the world. Last weekend was the Czech Republic and Detroit, Michigan. I guess you would call it, in marketing speak, event marketing. We’ll have anywhere from 500 to 1200 people that will come to a city. This last weekend, between the two primary cities and the satellite ones that players self-organize, we had 4500 people at this event. That’s the primary marketing that we do.
We have these events all over the world: Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, one in Bangalore. Those are great marketing tools for us. The people who come really have a great time, they just immerse themselves in Ingress for the day. It’s an active thing where you’re outside, you’re walking, there’s competition, there’s an after party, where we give away stickers and collectible trading cards and comic books. It’s a great way to energize the fan base.
The other innovative thing that we’re doing is that we bought an RV and branded as an Ingress black van. It has a tag, NL1331, that van shows up at these Anomaly events; it was in Detroit this last weekend. We have over 17,000 miles on the van and we brought it into service the second quarter of this year, it’s been very very busy. It’s got some great custom branding on it, it’s a really cool vehicle — people love to come to meetups and have their picture taken with the van and post that to social media. It’s really become a character in the game.
Recently Ingress launched on iOS. What has the response been like on iOS?
We’re really happy with iOS. Not only have we gotten a lot of iOS users, it actually increased our acquisition rate on Android as well. I believe that’s because it’s allowed people who’ve been fans of the product on Android to spread it via their social networks to iOS users as well as Android users. In certain markets like Japan, which is a very iOS heavy market overall, it’s really been a catalyst to break the game out into a very visible hot thing.
What does the future hold for Ingress?
We want to get the whole world off the couch and onto the parks, roadways, and streets of the world. The next thing up for us is Endgame, which we’re working on to launch in October. The game will be a lot like Ingress in that it’s a multiplayer game that requires you to go out into the real world. It has some attributes to it that Ingress does not have, including player-versus-player combat and it has a pretty different feel. There’s a story component to that, there will be an alternate reality game on the web, and all of that will build to a great film launch in 2015 or 2016.
With Ingress the next big evolution this coming month is missions, which will give people the ability to take their favorite portals or field trip cards and turn those into missions that people can complete, for your town or community. We think players are going to have a lot of fun with this. We hope to have that out before the end of the year.