Jadu AR launches Season 1 for its multiplayer mobile AR game


Jadu AR has launched Season 1 for its multiplayer mobile fighting game that uses augmented reality (AR) to blend the virtual and physical worlds.

Dubbed Jadu, the game is available now for free download on the App Store for iPhone and iPad, as well as on Google Play for Android devices.

Building on the game’s initial release in October 2023, Season 1 introduces players to an expanded world of cinematic quests and hero characters with novel fighting styles.

Since launch, Jadu has seen strong early engagement with over 790,000 matches played by 250,000 players, garnering 4.9 stars on the AppStore, said Asad J. Malik, CEO Jadu AR, in an interview with GamesBeat.

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The game is moving beyond its initial proof-of-concept phase that allowed players to experience AR combat on their phones to a dynamic adventure with multiple levels, hero characters, robust item shop and skill progression, Malik said.

In Season 1, players will navigate through a supermax prison brought to life in their room one AR fight at a time. As the player’s avatar battles against imperial robot guards with increasingly dangerous attacks, the physical room transforms with prison cells in walls, infinite elevators and elemental research facilities.

Jadu’s approach to AR allows players to control their avatars from a third-person perspective, making gameplay much more comfortable compared to AR’s usual first-person point of view.

Jadu takes modern smartphones that are equipped with LiDAR sensors, high-resolution cameras and fast networking and shows players the true potential of their phone. Jadu makes the most of these features to create dynamic game environments that overlay in the player’s space for an immersive gaming experience.

“After years of iteration we have spatial gameplay that feels natural and immersive without sacrificing scale or accessibility,” said Malik. “But when the character concepts circulated around our remote team, we knew we were building a world worthy of the medium. Season 1 is our joy of discovery packaged into a game.”

New Heroes: TukTuk and Absynth

Jadu's Absynth and TukTuk characters.
Jadu’s Absynth and TukTuk characters.

When you start up the game, you go into the single-player campaign, which is a way to onboard the player to the game mechanics. There are five isolmetric levels to play in the campaign mode. You fight different robots and escape a facility. Then the AR shifts to your own room and it transformsinto a 3D space. Things start appearing in your room. You have to fight enemies in your room, punching and blocking with a shield.

This season introduces two new playable characters that can be unlocked by completing different quests in the game. Hardened by decades of driving his truck across the unforgiving highways of South Asia, ChaCha TukTuk (inspired by a real-life trucker that Malik admired) will stop at nothing to avenge his unfair imprisonment with the brutal art of fire and oil. Dipped in bionic metal armor, Absynth is a femme-fatale who wields toxic concoctions that are as alluring as they are lethal.

In addition to hero characters, players will be able to build their own fighter and style from a massively expanded store featuring millions of new cosmetic combinations — from spiked combat boots to football pads to a sushi chef outfit complete with a cuddly cat.

There are 126 new items in Season 1 and 10 different levels and five different skills you can upgrade over time. The game does not have a location element to it. Malik believes it makes sense to target younger audiences with details such as songs, characters and advertisements.

Pivoting

TukTuk vs BB in Jadu.
TukTuk vs BB in Jadu.

Jadu AR was founded in 2019 with a fascination for what virtual characters interacting with physical spaces can do for culture. Over the years the team has collaborated with Elton John, Grimes, Lewis Hamilton, Lil Nas X, Michael Bay, Serena Williams and Snoop Dogg.

Jadu AR has raised $42 million from investors including Bain, General Catalyst, LG Tech Ventures and Com2Us. Jadu’s international team of designers, engineers and creatives are on a mission to make AR games that redefine the relationship between gamers and their real world spaces.

About a year ago, the company pivoted into an AR fighting game, and then the company released the title in October. For an AR game, it got a reasonably good audience. The team collected the feedback and fleshed out the title over the last six months as the team figured out if the core mechanic was really working well. Now it’s launching the update dubbed Season 1.

The point of putting the original title out there early was to test the behavior of how people played as they pointed their phone at the real world and saw imagery from the game appear on the screen in a way that blended reality and the AR imagery.

“We wanted to make sure that people actually wanted to play something like that before we went ahead and made tons of content for it. Now we’ve had around 250,000 installs. And the rating on the App Store is 4.9 stars, which gives us an indication that people want to hold their phone up and go through a slightly more immersive type of game on mobile. So with confidence, we have now built tons of content.”

Moving AR forward

TukTuk is a character in AR fighting game Jadu.

Malik said people hadn’t realized how the quality of mobile AR had advanced. Tracking images is better and capturing face details works, as does geolocation, he said.

“People realize that, it’s actually way more natural than you would think. You can actually move around quite confidently. And things don’t lose track and things aren’t flickering or floating around,” he said. “It’s actually pretty consistent. That’s catching people off guard in a good way.”

Special effects also have better production values now as well. The game has been in the works for three years. During that time, the company has had to learn more about mobile game design and monetization. Fortunately, the studio has been well funded and it has a team of 45.

“We’re one of the few studios that has had the resources to do this,” he said.

As for the future, he said, “I’m not a purist in terms of headset vs mobile at this point at all. I’m not a purist in terms of pass through or not pass through. But I do need your reality to be augmented,” he said. “For us, the visuals are really critical.”

While Pokemon Go took off as a geolocation game with AR effects, it’s been harder for other AR games to gain traction, even for Niantic, the maker of Pokemon Go. There is growing interest in AR thanks to the debut of the Apple Vision Pro, which has mixed reality technology. But it will still be a while before that product breaks into the mass market.

“I’m personally very excited, but at the same time the market is not there yet. We are incredibly bullish on smartphones,” he said.

Meanwhile, Malik thinks smartphones are capable of way more than what they currently do.

“Mobile gaming is really the space we are entering. Instead of thinking of ourselves as an AR game and trying to compete with other people, we’re now looking at mobile gaming and the world of games like Monopoly Go and Clash of Clans,” he said. “We’re trying to make interesting things for that audience.”