Players slip into realities outside of their own to become heroes, listen to stories, and disappear for awhile. Recent trends in gaming, however, are driving gamers to engage with real life in incredible new ways. Movements like virtual reality, mobile gaming, and toys to life are all making people rethink the way they play.

The Merger of Mobile Gaming and Augmented Reality

Mobile gaming has provided opportunities for players, advertisers, and local businesses to all meet common goals. For example, more and more businesses with nearby PokeStops are purchasing lures in the hopes of drawing aspiring Pokemon masters into their shops. This is an early example of how physical locations and objects can be activated in a digital or gaming space.

For gamers, it has created a whole new culture of outdoor community interaction. All you have to do is swing by a local park and you'll see families, groups of friends, and solo players all searching together and having a laugh with complete strangers.

Beyond the feel-good changes that augmented reality games can bring about, the data that can be mined from location-based apps is tremendous. Interested parties might look for how many users were in a particular location at one time, what time of day was the best for mobile tracking, demographic information for each user, and so on. The possibilities are close to limitless whether it's for advertising, business development, or simply making better gaming experiences.

Revitalizing Toys for the Digital Sector

Toys have always been at the center of our imaginative life but recently they have seen a decline, likely due to the increase in popularity of both console and mobile gaming. Recent digital integration, however, has demonstrated how toys can become a part of the gaming industry.

Jia Shen, founder, and CEO of PowerCore works with game creators and toy makers alike to help them integrate these trends in order to open up new markets. He explains "With consumers becoming more digitally engaged we are seeing the rise of licensed products like Lego and Funko's toy blanks. This development opens up the possibility for customization and activating everyday toys or objects into the digital space." These two industries are about to compliment one another as movers in the industry like Mattel, Lego, and Funko change their approach to gaming.

Critics of the toys to life movement have made arguments that the industry is bound to slow down because of the need for constant purchase, but the move towards customizable options provides a cost effective solution for both toy makers and parents. Not to mention the possibilities to blend various gaming approaches like mobile, augmented reality and physical objects. Companies like PowerCore are working to find new ways of activating physical objects for all gaming platforms. Two decades after the franchise's inception, PokemonGo demonstrates that its collectibles are still an important part of gaming. Shen, a veteran in the mobile gaming space, says, "There is immense potential to integrate the collection fever found in PokemonGo into physical objects. Once a platform is selected, all a firm has to do is obtain the right licenses in order to start developing collectibles that can be a part of gameplay. At San Diego Comicon 2016, huge lines demonstrated how popular collectibles like this have become."

3D Printing Opening Doors for Customization

As it becomes easier for developers to activate objects into digital experiences, demand will increase for customizable objects. Activision has already started with its Imaginators series. The recent update to the Skylanders franchise allows players to combine different pieces to create custom characters that are visually represented in gameplay. The logical next step is allowing players to fully design their own characters and activate them into the game. Advances in 3D printing software have made it easier for people to turn 2D drawings into 3D objects, meaning that kids could easily design characters of their choosing.

As mobile gaming, toys to life, and augmented reality charge forward, it's only a matter of time before they begin to intersect more frequently. The popularity of each platform gives immense potential when integrated with the others, for brands and players alike. By activating physical objects into a digital space, gaming companies have the opportunity to reinvigorate the collectible toy market. Companies that create new offerings and solutions in this space have the potential to direct changes in the industry and open up entirely new markets.