Fun AR game entices Malaysians into playing a game of virtual Monopoly

‘Landlord Go’ lets you have the whole world as your virtual Monopoly board. — Picture courtesy of Reality Games
‘Landlord Go’ lets you have the whole world as your virtual Monopoly board. — Picture courtesy of Reality Games

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 14 ― Ah, Monopoly. It's a board game that is either seen as a fun pastime or destroyer of friendships.

While there are localised versions of the game available, a new mobile game now lets you “purchase” actual locations on your map.

The premise of the game, Landlord GO, is simple: basically you, a wannabe landlord, get handed a bag of virtual cash and then the world around you becomes ripe for the purchase.

I emailed John Z. Woznowski the CEO of the company behind the game to get some insight on the game.

Headquartered in the UK, Reality Games has a development office in Poland and are focusing on creating games based on Big Data as content.

Interestingly, Reality Games isn't reliant on investors. “We don't have investors, we are growing organically based on our products.”

Initially Reality found success via their previous title, Landlord Tycoon and from there created the rather amusing Donut Trumpet Tycoon, that was inspired by a certain (ahem) controversial world leader.

The latter game's success saw it reach the top of mobile strategy games in the US and with those two games under their belt, Reality Games then poured their effort into Landlord GO.

Of course Landlord GO is a nod to the popularity of the augmented reality (AR) sensation that was Pokemon Go. Instead of capturing virtual monsters, instead you purchase actual locations that can be seen from the virtual map within the app.

Of course I needed to try the game out (it's free on the App Store and Google Play and apparently I now own the nearby bak kut teh stall.

Woznowski said the game has won the interest of 40,000 players in Malaysia, who have already bought over 150,000 properties in total. The majority of the players are currently in Kuala Lumpur.

Following is the result of the email conversation I had with him about the game and what to expect.

1. What prompted the creation of the game?

We have decided to take the most popular board game on the planet to the next level. This game hasn't changed since 1912... and today's technology is letting us have more than 500 million properties instead of just 32 to play. It's a natural technology improvement which had to be done.

2. What do you think keeps players engaged once the initial novelty wears off?

The game is allowing you to be someone else, or explore a set of skills you didn't know you have.

This game lets you feel how it is like to be a real estate investor. Because we use real world buildings, and you can see the local buildings you pass on your daily commuting routine it's very likely that you can feel an immersion from the game.

The main reason is the education about financial aspects of the business. When to buy, when to sell. Our former landlord was introduced to a few universities as a business simulator for students.

There is also a big benefit of exploring your own city ― by seeing properties you didn't have an idea that exists.

Because of Covid-19 we have implemented a special feature called Property Agent. Thanks to that you can travel with your agent on the map and search for properties of the special type.

3. What are your thoughts on the current mobile gaming landscape?

The mobile gaming market has a high increase by 30 per cent ― it's related to the pandemic. Mobile games are becoming multi dollar development projects, sometimes the budget is higher than movie productions.

The majority of the traffic and revenue is in the hands of the top 50 games. Mobile games generate a lot of big data and every aspect of the game can be strictly data driven.

4. How long did the game take to produce and what were the challenges you faced?

We spent over four years developing this game. The heart of our product is data. We gather information from over 3,000 open databases, and thanks to users from our previous game Landlord Tycoon.

The game uses Reality’s massive proprietary dataset, merging it with Nasa satellite data to create one of the most authentic and realistic augmented reality games ever created.

By overlaying these data points on top of the real world, your city becomes the playing field.

Using image recognition software, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence, Landlord Go takes advantage of bleeding-edge technology to make the experience as immersive and close to reality as it gets.

Using a massive pool of data, including detailed information about more than half a billion real world properties, Landlord Go connects the user to their city in an exciting and innovative new way that no other game can offer. 

5. Tips for new players?

Our main goal is to make it as easy as possible. I can assure you that you don't need more than three minutes to buy your first shares of nearby buildings. There are a lot of investment strategies e.g. like buying local properties and selling them on the global marketplace, searching for collections like coffee shops and gaining a special boost for the chain network.

Our main goal is to have digital copies of physical buildings in the real world. Then we connect digital footprints that are left by people who use smartphones in the real world with properties inside the game. 

Thanks to that we have a game economy that represents real world trends and behaviours. Players can buy buildings in the 1k radius of their physical location.

You can get a taste of the gameplay by watching the game trailer below:

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