Is CSR Racing 2 the #1 top grossing mobile game in the racing category or does it have higher ambitions?
Well, if the introduction of a new AR garage mode (currently available for iOS devices supporting Apple’s ARKit) is anything to go by, Zynga’s sights are set on it being more than just a F2P drag racer, albeit a F2P drag racer that’s generated $90 million since launch.
That’s why, when the development team at NaturalMotion’s London studio talks about the new mode, which is available in the current update, they explain how it emphasises and extends the game’s underlying car collection mechanic by blurring the virtual and the real worlds.
And as they conjure up both full-size and toy-scale versions of the in-game Ferraris and Bugattis, opening up the door and bonnets, and peering at the incredibly detailed engines and interiors, they joke about how quickly such photos will be used to buff people’s Tinder profiles, ironically or otherwise.
On another level, the fact this new mode even exists and is compelling is a serendipitous outworking of NaturalMotion’s approach to making games.
Because each of the game’s 80-odd vehicles was originally modelled, inside and out, in such detail, displaying them in AR mode required no additional art work.
If it had, the cost of creating the mode would have been prohibitive, which is why you're unlikely to see it in other mobile racing games.
This isn’t to say getting AR to work was easy.
NaturalMotion won’t say how long development took, but is happy to reveal it sent engineers to Cupertino to work directly with Apple’s ARKit team to ensure the experience was as optimised and visually solid as it could be.
Still, once created and available (and over time for Android devices via support for Google’s ARCore), the value of the mode to CSR Racing 2’s long term success as a mobile drag racer and beyond will be down to how and how many of its players start sharing photos and videos of their virtual cars in real-world situations.
For, if wherever cars are celebrated and socially shared as status symbols, CSR Racing 2 becomes a way for petrolheads to mash in their own virtual showrooms, then app store success will have been just the start.