At over $1.5M, the Kickstarter is on track to set a record for the most-funded AR platform.
Long before cell phones and MMO’s, it was the standard tabletop that defined the gaming landscape. The term “board game” alone evokes images of flying dice, plastic game pieces, and victory dances amidst defeated friends and family members. These games were (and still are) the incubators for concepts that have gone on to define game design, and helped shape how we as a society have come to understand what makes an experience fun.
But the medium isn’t perfect. Just from a storage perspective, having boxes full of folded gameboards, piles of fake money, and the various other accouterments that make these games iconic can make owning more than a few somewhat impractical. My fiancé and I personally have a large stack of them in our entryway closet, and I fear the day an earthquake sends them tumbling down. The same can be said of books, and despite our large personal library, I know that I relish being able to open an app and have access to hundreds of titles anywhere I go.
Similarly, the video game industry has over the last 10+ years been moving away from the disc and cartridge model in favor of centralized online platforms and larger on-board storage. But tabletop gaming has been stuck. Even considering innovations like smartphone game pieces, there has yet to be a solution that maintains both the tactile and social aspects of tabletop gaming while also providing the ease of a virtual library and play space.
Tilt Five is looking to change that.
Founded by game and tech industry veterans Jeri Ellsworth and Jamie Gennis, Tilt Five launched the Kickstarter for their AR tabletop gaming platform on September 23rd. Just a month later, the campaign has blown past their initial $450,000 goal and is currently close to raising $1.5M+ to bring their vision to life.
“We took what people love about board games and video games, and brought them together,” Tilt Five’s CEO Jerri Ellsworth told me during an interview. The concept is as genius as it is simplistic: a set of mobile/PC-powered AR glasses, a matching set of controller wands, and a game board (with game pieces, depending on the game). With just those few things, players are able to access a potentially limitless number of AR-enhanced games and experiences; a mobile, interactive social platform built from the bottom-up that could change the tabletop gaming industry forever.
For the Tilt Five team, this vision has been years in the making. Originally launched as CastAR on Kickstarter in 2013, the previous iteration of the technology saw lots of consumer interest. However, after pursuing VC funding, the company struggled before shutting down in 2017 due to leadership changes pushed through by investors. This time, Jeri is armed with hard-won lessons and is determined to see her vision become a reality.
But what’s the secret sauce that sets Tilt Five apart? For one thing, Jeri proudly told me that “Everyone at the company plays both video games and board games.” Focused on creating a platform that they would all love to use, the Tilt Five team has iterated on the CastAR technology to create glasses with an impressive 110° FOV. They have also created a modular game board that has the ability to change shape.
On top of this already solid platform, Tilt Five will enable people to play together remotely using voice chat and real-time AR responsiveness. This flexibility tackles two of the largest friction points in video and tabletop gaming — the desire to feel like you’re next to someone while also eliminating the need for physical proximity.
Opting for mobile/PC-powered glasses also increases their comfort by reducing their weight, and allows for the platform to adapt to new hardware and software advancements without needing an entirely new headset. At the center of all of this is a safety and privacy-first mentality, ensuring that the entire family can enjoy without concern.
Especially when it comes to immersive technology, driving mass-adoption with content is the first and largest hurdle for any newcomer to the industry. Unsurprisingly, Tilt Five has its bases covered. Working with an eager host of developers, Tilt Five will launch with a large library of games, with recognizable titles like Weave and Wartile among them. The Tilt Five team invites those interested in developing for the platform to contact them, as they can provide an SDK with ready-made plugins for Unity 5.5+ and Unreal Engine 4.
LE and XE kits are slated to begin shipping in June 2020, and those interested have until October 28th to join the Kickstarter. I happily backed the project, and can’t wait to invite over my family and friends for some AR rivalry. The real question is whether or not it can finally stop my grandfather from cheating at Battleship.
Feature Image Credit: Tilt Five