Commentary

JCDecaux, Google Launch Outdoor-Social Game

Sometimes something comes along that spans so many media categories I don’t even know how to describe it: I guess the best way to summarize JCDecaux’s new partnership Google’s Niantic Labs would be a “mobile, social, place-based, digital out-of-home, massively multiplayer immersive gaming experience.” And I’m still not sure that quite covers it.

The global outdoor advertiser has joined forces with Google to participate in “Ingress,” an “alternate reality game” created by Niantic Labs, which invites players to join the search for a strange, powerful energy source that players must find and conquer. Travelers at John F. Kennedy and Los Angeles International Airports can now get involved in the game through over 70 “virtual portals” provided by JCDecaux’s digital displays in the JFK and LAX main gate areas.

Ingress consists of two competing different factions using smartphones to link up “portals,” typically associated with public art, civic monuments, transit hubs, and the like, to form triangular-shaped fields over distances ranging from a few yards to hundreds of miles, which obviously presents a considerable logistical challenge -- and a perfect integration for two of the world’s most heavily-trafficked airports. The game, which has a fairly elaborate sci-fi backstory, rolled out in beta in November 2012, and has since attracted a global following.

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John Hanke, general manager of Niantic Labs, stated: “Our goal is to enrich everyday experiences with an element of mystery and fun by encouraging our users to look for the unexpected, and JCDecaux's digital displays are now part of that experience.”

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