Niantic is partnering with Punchdrunk, a British theatre company credited with pioneering theatre productions in which audience members are free to roam throughout a large, enclosed, highly immersive setting and experience storylines from unique perspectives. It is best known for the production Sleep No More, in which multiple storylines inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth are performed in silence throughout a vast building decorated in film noir style.
These immersive productions have been compared to the experience of entering a real-world video game, making Punchdrunk a fitting partner for mixed-reality entertainment ventures.
“At Punchdrunk we create richly cinematic 3D worlds where audiences can explore, touch and smell the environment, where the boundaries between reality and fantasy are indistinguishable,” said artistic director Felix Barrett. “Those that have seen Sleep No More often liken the experience to how it might feel to walk into a video game. What happens if you take that sense of adventure into the real world? Tear down the walls and the world becomes your stage.
“I believe that Punchdrunk and Niantic can create something that has not been done before. They do it in AR; we do it in real life. Collide the two and I think we will blow people’s minds, bend the rules of genre and redefine the norms of mobile gaming.”
Comparisons between Sleep No More and video games apparently inspired Punchdrunk to consider what would happen if integrated game mechanics and digital technology were integrated into its work. In a statement on its website, Punchdrunk said that the future of interactive audience experiences is “at the cross section of gaming and theatre”.
Niantic and Punchdrunk have revealed few details about their joint projects, which they have been working on together for some time. However, the companies said that they would develop “multiple projects that will reinvent storytelling for a 21st-century audience and further expand the horizon of interactive entertainment.”
Niantic CEO John Hanke described the projects as “entirely new experiences that merge the physical and digital worlds in a way that hasn’t before been attempted”.
Punchdrunk will be using Niantic’s ‘Real World Platform’, which allows the real world to be used as the backdrop for AR games such as Pokémon GO; Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, and an upcoming AR mobile version of Catan called Catan: World Explorers. Possible projects could include mobile games, immersive productions with digital enhancements, or one-off events in which physical and digital characters appear in real-world spaces.
Punchdrunk have previously integrated digital technologies into its productions, such as by working with MIT Media Lab on The Séance and with Samsung on Believe Your Eyes, as well as creating an app-based game called Silverpoint.