Sunday, November 25, 2012

Predicting the Ingress expansion by looking at the past

When speaking of Google's new augmented reality game Ingress, there is a lot of talk about the plan.

No, not the plan that is revealed (or not revealed) in the storyline.

The plan to move the game beyond closed beta.

Whenever there is a post on Ingress that is open to comments, the most common comment that is seen is "I want an invite." As of right now, Ingress requires an activation code in order to play it, and the present demand for such activation codes far exceeds the supply.

There are several reasons for such a strategy. First, having a limited number of players helps to debug the underlying software and servers to make sure that everything is working properly. Second, when everyone is talking about getting access to a Google product, this results in a, buzz for the product. The tactic is successfully used for both the launches of free products and the launches of paid products.

But when should Google open Ingress up to a larger audience? It may, or may not, be helpful to look at past Google product introductions. When Google+ came out, Kathy Gill asserted that the success of Google+ was due to a rapid expansion:

In October 2009, Google launched a not-quite-ready for prime time product. There was a virtual stampede for invitations, which were doled out slowly and in small amounts. Less than a year later, Google would retire Wave.

It’s June 2011. Google launched G+ on Wednesday; early participants could play but not invite anyone. But by late afternoon Thursday, invitations were running wild, although Google did eventually pull the plug.

I'm not sure that the availability of invitations was critical to Google+'s long term success (and there are still people who maintain that Google+ is a ghost town). But if (and this is a big if) the Google servers are ready for an increased load, would it be beneficial to Google to open up invites more widely - and to provide Ingress on smartphone platforms other than Android? (This would take time for things such as Apple approvals, something that may not be quick.)

As of now, the Niantic Project website appears to support dates between November 1 and November 30. The 30th happens to be a Friday. Perhaps millions of Android phone users will spend the weekend running around the place.
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