Online gaming relies on technology as the backbone for the entire industry. It goes without saying that the progression of the gaming world depends on the evolution of technology. As the technology behind gaming improves, so does the player’s experience and level of immersion. In just a few short decades, gaming has moved on from pixel rated Atari games to online mobile games that are just as impressive as their console counterparts.
One type of technology that is used in certain types of online games is location technology. This refers to the tracking of the player’s device location for the purpose of gameplay. Here we explore how and why location technology is used in online games.
- Technology in Online Games
Online games require the use of advanced technology from start to finish. The designers and developers rely on technology to create epic games, while the player connects to the server using their own hardware.
Technology begins with the infrastructure of the game, the hardware and software tools used to create them, such as 3D modelling tools like Zbrush, 3DS Max and Photoshop. Specialized gaming hardware and operating systems are also required, as is the software for coding games. Data resources, such as servers and hardrives, are useful for connecting players to the ecosystem and allowing them to save games.
Technology has revolutionized all aspects of online gaming, producing more immersive and exciting experiences for the player and more options for the developers. This has led to new developments such as 4K console games, 3D gaming and augmented reality, highly accessible mobile gaming and thriving (or sometimes toxic) online communities.
For the sake of this article, I will focus the discussion exclusively on location technologies.
- Geolocation in Regulated Gaming Markets
Location technologies have a huge role to play when it comes to online gaming in regulated markets, specifically online casino gaming and poker.
Online casino gaming is a bit of a grey area in the USA, to put it mildly. Still, the activity is legal in several states, but so far only five. New Jersey is one of these states. This leaves a bit of a problem. How do regulators ensure that only players within the jurisdiction play at New Jersey casino sites? What is it that prevents players from, say New York, logging in and trying it out?
The answer is geolocation, a type of location technology which tracks and pinpoints gamers exact location as they are playing. This technology relies on multiple sources of data, such as Internet Protocol (IP) and Wifi signals to triangulate the user for verifying city location. Leading companies such as NJ-based Geo Comply provide these services for online casino providers to ensure regulations are being met.
For geolocation to work, players are required to download a geolocation plug-in for each specific online casino, poker room and bookmakers that they use. This means that all players are tracked for location, theoretically ensuring that no one can play if they are not physically located within the state.
It is possible to utilize geolocation for PCs and laptops, and even easier to triangulate mobile phones, which are better equipped for Wifi. For this to work, mobile phones must have their location turned on in order to play online casinos. This is simple enough for the user. For example, on Android follow options for apps → settings → location → on. You will also need to make sure the “Allow Mock Locations” feature is turned off.
Geolocation is not without flaws. A tech-savvy player may still be able to circumnavigate the technology using sophisticated proxy servers to hide their location and remote servers to bring up a fake IP address which shows their location to be within the right area.
However, as location technologies improve, it becomes more difficult for players to attempt this with any measure of success. The fact that geo location now uses several methods simultaneously to locate players, such as mobile transponders, Wifi and IP addresses, means that a simple VPN is not enough to bypass the technology.
Geo location is also more accurate than ever before. Cell phone triangulation is only accurate to within around 1 mile, making it difficult to regulate densely packed border towns of New Jersey. However, WiFi triangulation is accurate to within around 10ft, eliminating the problem of making sure players are on the legal side of the border.
- Location-Based Games
Location technologies have also allowed game developers to create a new category of game known as ‘location based games’. The defining feature of these games is that the game play changes and evolves according to the player’s location. For example, the player roams the physical streets of an urban area to take part in an online augmented reality paint balling battle.
Location based games are actually not a genre, but a way of grouping together games from all kinds of genre. Any game which uses the player’s location to directly impact game play, however small this impact is, can be classed as a location based game.
Pokemon Go is a popular location-based game. Players explore the physical world to catch Pokemon via their mobile phones. Incidentally, you can use an Android hack so that you don’t actually have to move to catch Pokemon, but where’s the fun in that?
Location-based games must have a way to track player’s actions in the physical world in order for the games to work. As mentioned, geolocation of mobile phones is fairly easy, and with satellite GPS technology the player can instantaneously see their real-life movements and actions in the game.
The location based game market has had a slow and rocky start, with few major releases and minimal revenue compared to the huge mobile gaming industry. Yet Pokemon Go broke through this trend. It was downloaded 130 million times in the first month, and made revenues of $206.5 million within the first four weeks.
As location technologies improve, the scope for these kinds of games continues to grow. 3G and 4G networks provide the means for easier triangulation, while the inclusion of Bluetooth allows for simple integration of GPS.
Location technologies are also a major component in the regulation of online gaming markets. Without geo location, it would be impossible to prevent players outside of legally regulated jurisdictions from taking part.