Ingress (video game)

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Ingress Logo vector.svg
Platform(s)Android, iOS
Genre(s)Augmented reality
Location-based game
Massively multiplayer online game
Massively multiplayer online real-time strategy game Edit this on Wikidata
Mode(s)Multiplayer video game Edit this on Wikidata

Ingress is a location-based, augmented-reality mobile game developed by Niantic.[4] The game was released for Android devices on December 14, 2013 and for iOS devices on July 14, 2014.[1][2][5] The game is free to play, uses a freemium business model, and supports in-app purchases for additional in-game items. The mobile app has been downloaded more than 20 million times worldwide as of November 2018.[3]

Ingress uses the mobile device GPS to locate and interact with "portals" which are in proximity to the player's real-world location. The portals are physical points of interest where "human creativity and ingenuity is expressed" often manifesting as public art such as statues and monuments, unique architecture, outdoor murals, historic buildings, and other displays of human achievement.[6] The game also has a science fiction back story with a continuous open narrative.[7][8]

Setting and plot[edit]

An unknown, transdimensional force called Exotic Matter (XM) was discovered as a byproduct of the Higgs boson research (Large Hadron Collider) by a team of scientists at CERN in Switzerland.[9][10] This substance has been associated with the Shapers, a mysterious phenomenon or alien race.[11]

Within the game, human reactions to this discovery fall into two factions known as the Enlightened and the Resistance. The Enlightened faction embrace the powers of XM to transcend mankind and believe their mission is to assist in the enlightenment of mankind by harnessing this energy. The Resistance faction see XM as a malicious force threatening humanity and believe their mission is to defend the human race by resisting the effects of XM.[10] These two factions are the opposing "sides" or "teams" in the game: the Resistance is represented in the game by the color blue and the Enlightened by green. Both teams have naturally tended to balance each other out in population.[12]


The gameplay of Ingress has been described as combining elements of geocaching with capture the flag.[13]

Play environment[edit]

An example of the Intel Map. Portals, links, and control fields (colored spaces) overlay a special Google Maps layer

A player using their mobile device (or "scanner") is presented with a map representing the surrounding area. The map has a black background and is completely unmarked, except for buildings and roads which are outlined in grey but not labeled, and bodies of water. These geographical features are supplied by OpenStreetMap and formerly Google Maps.[A] Visible on the map are portals, Exotic Matter, links, and control fields. Distances from the player to in-game locations are displayed in metric units.

Players must be physically near objects on the map to interact with them. The scanner represents the player as a small arrowhead in the center of a circle 40 meters (130 ft) in radius, which represents the perimeter within which direct interaction is possible. A player sees only their own location and not any other player's. The color of the arrowhead corresponds with the player's faction. A player can "hack" a nearby portal to acquire items, some of which can also be used to replenish XM.[14]

Players are rewarded with Action Points (AP) for actions within the game. Accumulating AP beyond certain thresholds grants higher access levels.[15] The access levels are numbered 1 through 16, with 16 being the highest. The game usually rewards more AP for taking over enemy portals than for maintaining your own team's, if a player is outnumbered by members of the other faction, they will tend to accumulate AP at a faster rate as a way of leveling the playing field.[16][verification needed]

In addition to earning AP, certain actions within the game can earn a player a medal. Medals are typically multi-tiered (ranked Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Onyx respectively) and become a requirement for level advancement beyond Level 8.[15][17] Most medals are statistic-based: for instance, capturing portals, total MUs captured, fields and links created, various offensive actions, and even successfully discovering new portals. Some badges are exclusive and can only be obtained by attending special events.

In September 2014, Niantic Labs introduced missions to the game. A mission is a user-created set of places to visit (waypoints) and interact with in specified ways. Some missions list all the waypoints from the start, while others only reveal them one at a time as the user progresses from one to the next. Completing missions reward the player with a mission medal displayed on their agent profile.[17][18]


In the game, Earth has a large number of "portals", made visible by the scanner. They are colored green, blue, or grey, depending respectively on whether they are currently controlled by the Enlightened, by the Resistance, or are unclaimed. Players claim portals for their faction by "deploying" at least one "resonator" on them. They can also add "mods" (modifications) to protect the portals or increase their power in various ways. If a portal is claimed by the enemy, the player must first neutralize it by destroying the opponents' resonators with weapons called XMP ("Exotic Matter Pulse") Bursters. Players acquire game items (resonators, XMP bursters, etc.) by maneuvering themselves, typically by walking, biking, or driving, to within 40 metres (130 ft) of a portal and "hacking" it by selecting this option on their scanners. Players can also earn additional items and AP for "glyph hacking" a portal, where they are briefly shown several patterns and retrace them within a time limit.

Portals are typically associated with buildings and landmarks of historic or architectural significance — such as sculptures, murals, and other public art, libraries, post offices, memorials, places of worship, public transit hubs, parks, and other recreational or tourist spaces, or with business locations.[19] Players may submit requests for the creation of new portals if they meet the level requirements.[20] It was thought upon at the game's launch that this would allow Google to generate data for its location-based services.[21] As of July 2016, 15 million portals had been submitted by the Ingress community, and five million of those had been included in the game.[22] At the time of Ingress Prime's release in November 2018, Niantic stated 1.2 billion portals were online.[3]

Operation Portal Recon[edit]

In November 2016, "Operation Portal Recon" (OPR) was launched in beta in San Francisco, Tohoku and Kyushu. Operation Portal Recon is a service where high-level Ingress players can evaluate Portal candidates for the Portal Network.[23] OPR exited beta in May 2017 and made available for all Level 16 players.[24] The level requirement for OPR has been reduced several times with the most recent change made in July 2017, making OPR available for all Level 12 players or above.[25] Portal Submissions returned to Ingress in September 2017, after a two-year hiatus, as a result of Operation Portal Recon.[26] Niantic announced in September 2018 the ability to submit PokéStop nominations through Pokémon Go with an initial beta test in South Korea and Brazil. The nominations from the PokéStop Nomination Beta are reviewed by Operation Portal Recon users.[27][28]

Links and control fields[edit]

Two portals that have all eight resonators deployed and are controlled by the same faction can be linked by a player from that faction who stands within range of one and has a portal key for the other. The maximum possible length of a link depends on the average level of the portal and any mods that amplify the portal's link range. However, links cannot cross an existing link regardless of faction. Portals can maintain the links and/or fields connected to them when the portal contains at least three resonators. Once the portal has less than three resonators, all links and fields on the portal are destroyed.

Links between portals can range from several meters to thousands of kilometers, created in operations of considerable logistical complexity.[29] In more complex operations, links and fields can span across countries and oceans.

When three portals are linked in a triangle, they create a control field, claiming the Mind Units (MU) within that field for their faction. In the game's context, control fields align the population’s thoughts with the faction. Control Fields are measured by the size of the human population that lives under the field.[30] Therefore, the larger the Control Field, the more the Mind Units earned. The opposing faction can destroy a control field by destroying one or more of the links that form it. The largest control field formed had points between Germany, Greece and Ukraine, and took four months of planning involving 200 players.[29]

Development and release[edit]

Ingress was released in closed beta on November 15, 2012,[31][32][33][34] with an accompanying online viral marketing campaign. The latter was noticed as early as November 8, and earlier publicity efforts had been noted at events such as San Diego's Comic-Con on July 12, 2012.[35] Google employees had been testing the game for at least six months.[36] At the time of Ingress's release, Niantic had 35 employees.[37]

An early interview described Ingress as a "proof of concept" for other AR games built on Google Maps' data.[38] It was designed to be aimed at a niche market of gamers.[39] Data from Ingress was used to populate the locations for Pokéstops and gyms within Pokémon Go, released in July 2016.[40] (See also Pokémon Go § Development.)

Ingress Prime[edit]

In December 2017, Niantic announced a thoroughly revamped version of the game, branded as Ingress Prime, would be released in 2018 using a completely rewritten new client and the lessons learned from the massive popularity of Pokémon Go. The new version features a subtly different back story akin to a superhero origin theme and a more florid graphic design. [41] Technologically the new version uses Apple's ARKit and Google's ARCore, and the network layer transitioned from JSON to Protobuf in keeping with the engineering style of Pokémon Go.[37][42] The update launched on November 5, 2018 as an update to the existing Ingress game.[3] Niantic also retained the older Ingress game as a separate download named Scanner [REDACTED]. The intention of the older Ingress game is to help aid the transition to Prime as feature parity is reached between both games in 2019. The older game will be available until Ingress Prime offers support for Portal submissions and edits.[43]

An anime based on the game premiered on Fuji TV's +Ultra anime programming block on October 18, 2018. Netflix will stream the series worldwide on November 23, 2018.[44][45]

Business model[edit]

A drink bottle with a competition token in Japan.[46]

Ingress is supported by advertising. Companies can pay for their locations to be used as portals in the game, thus making their stores a pilgrimage site for Ingress players,[47][48] which may translate into real-world sales.[49] In Germany, Vodafone offered an Ingress phone plan with a large amount of data to support the game,[50] in addition to all its stores becoming portals.[51] In France, Niantic partnered with Unibail-Rodamco, and several of its shopping centers were incorporated in the game.[52] In the U.S., the Jamba Juice and Zipcar chains have both had sponsored locations in Ingress.[51][53] Niantic CEO John Hanke describes the number of commercial sponsors in Ingress as being "limited", stating that the developers do not want to take away from the experience of discovering interesting places in their local area.[39]

Another form of advertising is sponsorship of in-game equipment. Players can virtually acquire various tools and weapons to use in the game. Sponsored versions of these include the "AXA Shield",[51] the "Lawson Power Cube", the "Circle K Power Cube", the "Ito En Transmuter (+/-)", the "SoftBank Ultra Link" and the "MUFG Capsule",[54] all categorized as Very Rare and performing significantly better than nonsponsored versions.[55]

In October 2015, Niantic added an in-game store and merchandise shop.[56] The store sells in-game items that are priced in Chaotic Matter Units (CMU), which in turn may be purchased for national currency in countries that permit it. Niantic's Ingress shop, accessed through the Ingress website, sells physical merchandise such as T-shirts and patches for real currency.[57]

Split from Google[edit]

On August 12, 2015, Niantic announced that it was being spun off as an independent company:[58] As part of this operation, Google was to begin transferring user data to Niantic on September 11. Users would be able to opt out of this process.[59]

Special events[edit]

In addition to the ongoing competition between the factions wherever there are players, there are several kinds of special events held on specific dates.


XM Anomalies are events where players from both factions compete in portal-based games in order to win points for their faction.[60][61] The format of an XM Anomaly event occurs over the extent of a weekend with Saturday consisting of the main event. A "series" for the XM Anomalies usually spans two different weekends. Anomaly locations may be chosen based on the player activity in a region. Players, upon registering as being part of the event, organize within each faction into squads based on player level, local knowledge, and mode of transport (for example, walking or biking).[62] The largest event, in Japan, attracted over 10,000 players.[39]

Anomaly sites are divided into two categories: Primary and Satellite locations.[63] Niantic Labs employees, as well as characters from the story, often attend events at Primary anomaly locations. More points are awarded to the prevailing faction at Primary sites than at Satellite sites. Players who participate in an anomaly are awarded a unique badge with the emblem of that anomaly. The outcome of XM Anomalies often influences future events in the plot.


A cross-faction portal hunt convenes in Washington, D.C., by the Smithsonian Castle on April 14, 2013.

Scholarship and reviews[edit]

Ingress has been the subject of academic study on the relationship between regionalism and globalism,[64] and its badge system has been used as an example in a case study of gamification.[65] Erin Stark argues that the game's system of players nominating portals based on street art is in effect the players curating a sense of place and a more flexible cultural heritage.[66] Spanner Spencer, writing for PocketGamer, noted that there was no casual way of playing Ingress and that it demanded dedication and teamwork.[67]

Ingress has been read as a gift economy in which players swap datafication of their physical location for gameplay.[68]

Ingress is considered to be a location-based exergame.[69] Niantic offers a set of guidelines for players that warn against trespass in its Terms of Service and reinforces that the player is responsible for their own conduct while playing the game. Legal expert Brian Wassom regards this as an important factor in AR games reducing the legal risk they bear when directing players to go to a location.[70]

Kai-Uwe Werbeck argues that the role-playing of the Ingress storyline challenges and reinforces postmodernism.[71]


  • Ingress won a "special mention" at the 2013 Android Players' Choice Awards.[72]
  • In 2014, Ingress won the 18th Japan Media Arts Festival Grand Prize for Entertainment Division [73]
  • Ingress won the Game Designers Award at the 2015 Japan Game Awards.[74]

Community and cultural impact[edit]

According to Alex Dalenberg of American City Business Journals, as of May 2013 there were about 500,000 players globally.[75] In an interview in August 2013 with the fan site Decode Ingress, Niantic Labs founder John Hanke said "There have been over 1M downloads and a large chunk of those are active."[76] In February 2014 there were 2 million players.[77] As of 2015, the game had been downloaded over 8 million times.[78] In 2015, Niantic told Tom's Hardware that they had 7 million players.[79]

Speaking with CNN, CEO John Hanke said he didn't expect players to start talking to each other and forming clubs.[80] The game has attracted an enthusiastic following in cities worldwide[31] amongst both young and old,[81] to the extent that the gameplay is itself a lifestyle for some, including tattoos.[1] Players have leased airplanes, helicopters, and boats to reach portals in remote areas of Siberia and Alaska.[82]

Cross-faction cooperation[edit]

There are times where the game's backstory is ignored and agents from both factions co-operate for the sake of real-life gameplay and game balance: for example, by establishing neutral zones and rules of engagement; for training new players; for socializing; and occasionally for serious real-life purposes such as honoring fallen heroes.

The game has received local media coverage,[83][84] including for players organizing events such as creating links between portals at war memorials for Memorial Day.[85][86] The opposing faction members at MIT arranged a campus-wide truce after the death of Sean Collier, an MIT police officer shot by the perpetrators in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, and placed their two respective portals side-by-side in a virtual cenotaph at the site of his death.[87] On Sunday, July 31, 2016, 49 players from both factions in South Africa (30 Enlightened, 19 Resistance) collaborated to create a work of field art[B][88][89][90] of a rhinoceros, covering approx. 325 square kilometres (125 sq mi), to raise awareness of rhino poaching in Southern Africa.[91]

Criticism and incidents[edit]

The basic idea of Ingress is very similar to that of the older, now-defunct, augmented reality game, Shadow Cities.[92] Both have two factions which are fighting for the future of the world with smart phones. Though the games have similar game mechanics and look-and-feel, there are clear differences. In Shadow Cities, players are in the virtual world, which is dynamically mapped around them, and can teleport within the virtual world, whereas in Ingress, the portals are real world locations that players generally have to actually move to in order to play.[93] Shadow Cities was shut down on October 7, 2013 due to lack of popularity.[94]

Portals which had been approved within the Nazi concentration camps of Dachau and Sachsenhausen were removed in July 2015; Gabriele Hammermann, director of the memorial site at Dachau, told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur that Google's original approval of these portals was a humiliation for victims of the Nazi camps and their relatives, and Niantic Labs' founder John Hanke stated that "we apologize that this has happened."[95]

Some players have attracted the attention of law enforcement while playing the game, and hence commentary on the interaction of augmented reality games with real life.[96] Because it can take some time for players to successfully "hack" a portal, they can draw the attention of law enforcement. In addition, some players play while driving slowly around an area, which is not recommended by the game developers and attracts the attention of law enforcement.[97] The Center for Internet Security recommended that law enforcement officers be apprised of the game, and warned that it may be difficult to determine if a malicious actor is using the game as a cover.[98] Furthermore, players have used unofficial apps to stalk each other.[99]

In 2014, a 16-year-old player in Brazil died after being hit by a bus while playing.[100] In 2015, an Irish player fell into the sea and drowned while trying to capture Poolbeg Lighthouse at night.[101]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ From the Sources button found within the Ingress app under the "Device" tab.
  2. ^ "Field art" refers to creating fields in such a way as to form a picture or artistic design.


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Further reading[edit]

  • Kotsios, A. (March 21, 2015). "Privacy in an augmented reality". International Journal of Law and Information Technology. 23 (2): 157–185. doi:10.1093/ijlit/eav003.
  • Buettel, Jessie C.; Brook, Barry W. (June 2016). "Egress! How technophilia can reinforce biophilia to improve ecological restoration". Restoration Ecology. doi:10.1111/rec.12387.

External links[edit]