Beacons Cast Spell on Mobile Gaming

For its BattleKasters game app, Artifact Technologies has been installing Bluetooth beacons at fan-based conferences, where an average of 1,000 players have used the technology to cast spells and work their way toward a portal to save the planet.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 29, 2015

BattleKasters, a smartphone game made by Seattle software company Artifact Technologies, brings together Bluetooth beacons and gaming. The game, developed with author Alane Adams, is based on Adams' Norse mythology-based novel series, known as "Legends of Orkney." By using phones running the BattleKasters app, fans at the PAX Prime gaming conference, held on Aug. 28-31 at the Washington State Convention Center, in Seattle, searched for beacons installed around the facility so that they could use them to cast spells, unlock cards and set traps for other players.

In the past year BattleKasters has been featured at six gaming-centered conventions (cons) run by fans of games, television shows or movies, and will be at more such venues during 2016. The game is the first beacon-based product offered by the company that focuses on location-based gaming using mobile phones.

The BattleKasters app provides details about various beacon-enabled physical locations that a player can visit.
Artifact Technologies was founded in 2011 to provide mobile apps (using its Mixby platform), initially in the form of a social network in which individuals could tag themselves in a photograph linked to the phone's GPS coordinates, and then share that photo with friends on the network. When those friends' own phones detected that they were within close range of the coordinates where someone else took a picture, their phone could alert them that they were at that location and display the image. However, the company found, consumers didn't use the app enough to make it worthwhile, and required too much of a phone's battery power. The firm then developed an iPhone game known as Ghost Patrol that allows a player to use GPS data to hunt for and capture ghosts within the user's vicinity, based on pictures taken by others in the area.

"Artifact was initially funded as a development lab, where we developed a couple mobile apps, all centered around where and when a user engaged with our products," says Sam Teplitsky, Artifact's co-founder and CEO. Ghost Patrol and Fonograf, a music discovery app, were the products created during the first phase of the business.

However, Teplitsky says, GPS-based data does not provide very precise location data. "We were trying to solve use cases with coarse awareness of location," he explains. So two years ago, the company began using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon technology included in iPhones and iPads. "Beacons have crystallized everything," he says, when it comes to the use of mobile-based gaming.

Artifact's team, Teplitsky reports, has become experts at location-based engagement, "which is a combination of the right user experience and app design, understanding the place where our experiences will be utilized, deep technical aptitude in devices and network limitations, and, most recently, tuning and deploying beacons."

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