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Are AR games still relevant?

After “Pokemon Go,” augmented reality games have gone stagnant -- but companies aren’t giving up yet

Despite continuing developments in augmented reality technologies, AR games -- the most common way consumers have experienced augmented reality -- have gone stagnant following the explosive popularity of Niantic’s “Pokemon Go” last year.

Models test out virtual reality gaming systems at VRIGHT, a virtual reality theme park from KT and GS Retail set to open March 1. (KT)
Models test out virtual reality gaming systems at VRIGHT, a virtual reality theme park from KT and GS Retail set to open March 1. (KT)

According to a recent survey from digital research firm DMC Media, just 6.4 percent of respondents said that they had installed an AR game on their phone -- down from 50.2 percent in the same survey last year.

As mobile games continue to grow in popularity, the only other category of games that showed an on-year drop was educational games.

Augmented reality games layer digital game elements over a user’s actual surroundings. In “Pokemon Go,” players were able to catch fictional monsters, which appeared to be in their actual immediate environment.

However, companies are pushing along with continuing developments in the technology believing that content will follow.

According to telecom company KT Tuesday, the company announced its 2020 vision for its VR/AR business. Based on KT’s past experiences with projects such as K-pop hologram concerts and streaming of sports events, the company said it hoped to reach 100 billion won ($93.2 million) in revenue from this type of experience media and contribute to expanding the AR/VR Korean market to 1 trillion won by 2020.

For now, the focus seems to be on virtual reality: KT is teaming up with GS Retail to open a so-called virtual reality theme park named “VRIGHT” in Seoul in March.

Located in the university area of Sinchon, VRIGHT will feature virtual reality content including VR games. The company said that it hopes to expand VRIGHT to 200 directly operated and franchised branches by 2020.

However, with advancements in data network technology allowing for larger quantities of data transmissions as well as improvements in location services and cameras on smartphones, augmented reality is expected to become more ubiquitous, which would shift game developers’ interest to augmented reality.

According to an analysis from AR/VR adviser firm Digi-Capital last month, “AR (including mobile AR and smartglasses) could approach three and a half billion installed base and $85 billion to $90 billion revenue by 2022,” vastly overtaking the $10 billion to $15 billion that could be brought in from VR.

By Won Ho-jung (