Social AR Gaming As The New Digital Trend

The tremendous popularity of social media is a fascinating phenomenon of the 21st century. It would be short-sighted for the creators of those networks to only think about messaging functionality. Why not turn virtual communication into a fun game?

The concept is quite simple: you play games and compete with your friends for free, and you don’t need any expensive video cards, processors, or even a console. All you need is your smartphone and social media account. With your camera and AR, you turn the space around you into a unique gaming environment, and all of that is streamed live. Sounds cool, doesn’t it?


Let’s take a closer look!




Social media has first drawn attention to itself as a gaming platform in 2007 when Facebook released Facebook Platform and gave the developers an opportunity to upload their games.


We are talking about formidable business models that made developers reconsider their strategies. Games like FarmVille, Mafia Wars, and Zynga quickly grew their user bases and had about 300 million users by 2012 (more than half Facebook’s active audience). The reason for such tremendous success was quite simple: if regular games involved learning the process and playing in continuous sessions, the social media games made a great 5-minute break at the office before you go on with the next task.


At one of his presentations, Mark Zuckerberg said that social gaming has become a crucial part of social media that contributes a big part of revenue in this business.


The gaming industry itself has been going through a lot of changes as well. Technology advances have evolved into a new genre that has gotten significant attention from the entire gaming society: AR gaming.

Pokémon Go from Niantic Labs was one of the first successful AR games, where the users could interact with the environment through the camera of their devices. It has literally disrupted the Internet in 2016 – it instantly reached the top of the charts and gained 550 million downloads and $470 million in revenue within the first 80 days after the official release. The hype around Pokémon Go has proven that augmented reality can be interesting to a broad audience. Some research shows that Pokémon Go has attracted even the users that normally don’t play mobile games.

A few other games like Jurassic World Alive and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite have tried to repeat the success of Pokémon Go and release similar products. However, the users weren’t that into it anymore. AR has raised a lot of interest and demand, but it didn’t come through with the supply.



According to some research, six out of 10 gamers say that immersion is something they expect from AR games. Unfortunately, in 2016, not all the devices supported AR yet, and those that did weren’t affordable to an average user. In addition to that, those games required a separate download and installation.

All of these things have driven the audience away from AR content and that’s what made Facebook come up with a solution. By creating Spark AR they allowed the augmented reality technology to work even with older and lower-cost devices.

And just like that, the social network’s audience of 600 million got instant access to the AR content through the camera of their smartphone. And that’s where the exciting part starts.



Instagram exploded at the end of 2018 when the closed testing of the Spark AR platform was initiated, and people started to instantly generate a huge amount of unique AR content. Creators (those that make filters) could now share their creative ideas with people and the users got the variety of choices they lacked before. At the same time, the first Instagram AR games had been released, which offered a new way of interaction through gestures and mimics.

The copy of “Flappy Bird” was one of the first Instagram AR games – the users had to blink to make the bird fly. In fact, blinking movement is still one of the most popular interaction methods.

Instagram AR games are peculiar in a way that people are actively sharing their experiences with their followers. Moreover, a lot of celebrities and brands started to use mini AR games. It allows them to draw more attention from the audience in the media, engage their followers, and promote their products and services in a new way.

Recent research has shown that the US audience has spent most of their time in lockdown watching Netflix and gaming.


According to Mark D’Arcy, Facebook’s Chief Creative Officer, the monthly amount of gamers on Facebook reaches 700 million users. That’s exactly why their team tries to extrapolate the gaming experience into advertisement. Italian fashion brand Marni has shown a good case of augmented advertisement where users had to play a sort of Arkanoid game, but with handbags. Mark has also added that AR gaming is the next wave of gamified advertisement.


Randomizers are one of the most popular filters today, and they’ve become immensely popular in no time. This year randomizers make up almost half of all games that are offered in the Instagram gallery. Just in case you don’t know what that is – randomizers are the filters changing pictures above your head to tell you what kind of croissant are you today.


However, there is another emerging type of games: complex 2D/3D runners, platformers, catchers, and others.

Just about a year ago a regular user wouldn’t even imagine that Instagram might have games, but today we see that a huge part of the audience is already actively using this form of entertainment. A month ago Instagram added the effects gallery into the games tab and even released its own filter game.



Multiplayer, voice control, geolocation: it’s just part of what we are going to see in the next 2-3 years. Step-by-step AR games will be getting new features.

Right now Instagram is working on voice recognition to be used in the filters. This function will allow for creating a quiz that will automatically check if the user’s answer is correct.


Network multiplayer will become a true game-changer and generate many more ideas in this area right away. If we are able to use the frontal camera and surface tracking, then we will be able to project a fight or a race with a few different people right on the floor of the room or in the central square of the city. If we can add geolocation tracking, we can even create a whole quest around the city with a treasure hunt, NPC tasks, and a PvP-shooting.

Monetizing will be next: AR filters will become a promotion instrument and an instrument for collaboration. For instance, partners will be able to create virtual banners, built-in quests to promote a new product or brand within the gaming environment. The HYPER-REALITY video demonstrates the great capacity of this concept.



Remember the card game that Windows added to one of their first versions to teach users hours to use the mouse? It’s the same with the AR games now: they are preparing us for a world where augmented reality will be closely tied to our daily routine.

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