Niantic's new 5G game demo highlights the future of AR gaming

'Codename: Urban Legends' lets you team up to cast magic spells on monsters.


Niantic turned mobile gaming on its head by forcing players to venture outdoors in Pokémon Go. The game was an instant smash and its popularity has only endured over the years, fostered through communal events. With the onset of 5G, Niantic is showing off its approach to next-gen augmented reality social gaming. We already got a glimpse of its mooted AR glasses, now it's unveiled a multiplayer demo to showcase the larger scale of its 5G games.

Borrowing elements from its existing lineup, including Pokémon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, the new Codename: Urban Legends sees players teaming up to cast magic spells on monsters big and small, cute and fearsome. The demo looks a lot like Japanese anime Dennou Coil, a mystery about a group of kids living in an increasingly virtualized world.

Niantic has already tapped a number of major cell carriers to network test the game including Deutsche Telekom, Globe Telecom and (Engadget parent) Verizon. Initial results show that 5G allows the game to handle up to 10 times as many simultaneous players and boosts latency by up to 10 times, too. Further down the line, Niantic claims the new network will also improve gameplay by enabling longer phone battery life.

The demo follows the launch of Niantic's "Planet-Scale AR Alliance," which is a partnership to test AR on global networks with the help of major carriers including Deutsche Telekom, EE, Globe Telecom, Orange, SK Telecom, SoftBank, Telus, Verizon and Telstra. Together, the companies are hoping AR turns out to be 5G's "killer app."