Apple CEO Tim Cook rarely lets a country visit go by without dropping in on a local developer.
So on Sunday afternoon, Cook arrived at the small Dublin city office of WarDucks, a highly-tipped Irish games studio that will release one of the industry’s more anticipated augmented reality titles later this year.
Founder Nikki Lannen gave Cook a demo of her studio’s upcoming game, as yet untitled.
Taking an iPad into his hands, the Apple CEO Cook was able to do battle with other virtual characters by pointing the tablet at a table top. He thought he had lost, was told he won, but then was notified by the game that he had, in fact, lost.
Nevertheless, he looked impressed.
“This looks ready to ship now,” he said, looking up at Lannen.
“Thanks. We want to get it absolutely perfect, though,” was her reply.
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According to some in the tech industry, ‘augmented reality’ (AR) is one of the things that could become the next big thing. Apple certainly thinks it has a shot, building AR tools into its software so that iPhones and iPads can play games with virtual characters popping up on whatever table, desktop or flat surface you point your iThing at.
WarDucks founder Lannen, with a successful career in Facebook behind her, spotted the opportunity some time ago. Her studio has already tasted success with virtual reality titles Roller Coaster Legends (for Playstation VR) and RCL II.
This year, though, promises to be the big one. Lannen has put together something of a minor all-star team from the gaming industry to work on the studio’s augmented reality title, set to be a first in the space. These industry veterans include both Doug Kaufman, the designer behind Civilization II and Lawrence Schick, previously a senior figure for Elder Scrolls Online and a veteran of early versions of Dungeons & Dragons.
The game is also good enough to have attracted the financial backing of Lars Jörnow, who previously set in motion the giant Candy Crush Saga mobile game in 2012.
WarDucks is keeping most of the game’s details under wraps until it releases a beta later in the year.
However, Lannen gave Cook a tour of the studio, showing him elements of its design, physics and engineering, to explain why it is being touted as a “category changer”.
The studio founder hinted at a groundbreaking mapping element to the game, previously described as a “huge opportunity in AR location-based mobile gaming, which combines the local appeal of real-world maps with engaging gameplay”.
Later, Cook spoke to the Irish Independent about what he had seen and the broader Irish app developer market.
“I’m super impressed that they [WarDucks] focused on AR, because I do view it as the most profound thing that’s happening to technology,” he said.
More broadly, he said that Apple has been central in “creating 17,000 app economy jobs” in Ireland, while Irish developers have earned close to €1bn from selling their apps to customers around the world.
“The developer population here is really taking off and it’s great to see it,” he said.
Apple has previously promoted the Dublin-based app firm 3D4Medical (recently sold to international publisher Elsevier), whose ‘Complete Anatomy’ app has been featured on stage during Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference. Hostelworld is another local software firm that has done particularly well through its app channels.
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