When Disney teased an augmented reality game called Star Wars: Jedi Challenges running on a headset from Lenovo, fans had more questions than Disney had answers. When? How much? Can I be a real Jedi?
With official word today from Lenovo and Disney by way of IFA 2017 in Berlin, we now know that pre-orders for Star Wars: Jedi Challenges are now open, just ahead of Force Friday, through Best Buy and Lenovo, with availability in Best Buy stores in the US starting in November, just in time for the holiday shopping season.
For $199.99, Padawans receive the Lenovo Mirage AR headset, a lightsaber controller, and a tracking beacon. The headset sports fisheye sensors for inside-out tracking, a 2200 mAh battery, navigation buttons, and a micro USB port for charging and data input/output.
The headset takes the "cardboard for AR" approach that the likes of HeadsupAR and Aryzon have proposed. Compatible smartphones provide the computing power, with the holograph source reflected from the display to the headset lens and AR content supplied by a companion app for iOS or Android.
Update: Lenovo has updated their homepage for the game with a list of compatible phones. These include iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6s, Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, Samsung Galaxy S7, Google Pixel XL, Google Pixel, and Moto Z, with additional devices to be added in the future.
The lightsaber controller, with buttons for Power, Blade, and (OMG) Force, and the tracking beacon act as markers to track the player's actions and position relative to the augmented content. The accessories run on an internal 500 mAH battery and 2 AA batteries, respectively. The box also includes a charger, power cable, and cables for connection to micro USB from Lightning, USB-C, and micro USB, presumably to connect the smartphone to headset's sensors.
Despite the presence of a Force button, the game presumably does not imbue customers with actual Force powers. The game does offer to simulate the experience.
As evidenced by the controller, the main draw for the game is the Lightsaber Battles. Players will be able wield their controller against holographs of Kylo Ren, Darth Vader, and other classic adversaries from the franchise.
If that wasn't enough fan service, players can also engage in Holochess, otherwise known as Dejarik in Star Wars canon. Yes, you, too, can play the game often played on the Millennium Falcon while exposition is disclosed. Be advised: you might want to let your wookie friends win.
The game also offers a Strategic Combat mode, where players marshal Republic, Rebel Alliance, and Resistance armies against Separatist, Empire, and First Order forces in their living rooms. It sounds a lot like that Magic Leap tabletop demo, but the preview video looks like a tower defense game. And that's cool, but, really, they had me at "lightsaber."
So, will three game play modes justify the price tag? It is less than the price of new console and a copy of Star Wars: Battlefront. But, then players have a much broader catalog of content available once the game's novelty wears off. (Unless developers are able to harness ARKit and ARCore to build apps for the headset?) Then again, where is the Force button on that Playstation or Xbox controller?
For those who cannot wait until November for some Star Wars-themed AR action, the Find the Force AR scavenger hunt kicks off tomorrow, err, I mean, on Force Friday.