In a blog post on its website yesterday, Niantic, the company behind the somehow-still-popular Pokémon Go augmented reality smartphone game, revealed it was working on at least 10 new AR games including one that turns your neighborhood and city into one of the most popular board games since Monopoly: Settlers of Catan.
Niantic promises the new Catan-World Explorers will be entering beta testing “very soon,” which is vague, but the company has created a website dedicated to the new game which includes the option to pre-register and flood your inbox with updates, as well as a few more details about how the game will work.
Instead of hunting pocket monsters, players, in Catan-World Explorers will be scouring real-world landmarks and locales for resources including lumber, wool, grain, brick, and ore. Like the board game, not all of these resources will be equally available in a single region, requiring players to connect with others around the world in order to make trades so that they can create local settlements, structures, and eventually thriving cities.
It’s not entirely clear what will keep players engaged with Catan-World Explorers; Pokémon Go gave players bragging rights for catching a Pokémon none of their friends had succeeded in finding or capturing, while battling for gym supremacy provided incentive to build up your Pokémon collection. With the AR version of Catan, Niantic will have players earning Victory Points by collecting resources and growing settlements which will “contribute to your Faction’s Global Score and your personal Local Game. Prevail as a seasonal champion and win rewards that follow you into future seasons!” What those rewards are, and whether or not they’ll be engaging enough to have players returning for later seasons, remains to be seen.
What is probably a given, however, is that like Niantic’s past AR game efforts, the free to play Catan-World Explorers will be harvesting your real-world excursions for valuable data—whether you realize it or not, as Kotaku revealed last year. Further complicating a release for the game this year is that, at least until a viable vaccine is available, encouraging people to leave their homes and crowd into parks to find a rare resource, which is what happened often with Pokémon Go, is not exactly promoting responsible safe distancing. Hopefully, Niantic will take the pandemic into consideration as it readies Catan-World Explorers for launch, as it did for Pokémon Go earlier this year.