During its annual developers conference in San Jose, California this week, Apple showed a video demonstration of a mobile AR game on the iPad, where two players staged an epic virtual spaceship battle at home.

Turns out, that was the prototype of NetEase’s EVE: Project Galaxy -- a new game adapted from the popular space sandbox EVE Online developed by Iceland’s CCP Games.

EVE Online, which has been played by more than half a million people worldwide, is an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) where players try to conquer the universe with fleets of spaceships.

EVE Online may not be as well-known as World of Warcraft, but loyal fans are crazy about it. One big reason is how massive these galaxy-shaping battles can get: Each brawl can involve thousands of players participating from all parts of the world.

The most famous of them all -- the Bloodbath of B-R5RB in 2014 -- reportedly lasted for 21 hours, involved more than 7,500 players, and inflicted around US$300,000 worth of damage to their wallets.

Players spend months and thousands of dollars building up their fleets but they could be wiped out in one battle. (Picture: CCP Games)

NetEase told us its new game, built on Apple’s latest ARKit 2, is still in development and the footage shown during Apple’s promo was only for reference.

But from what we saw in that sneak peek, the battle appears to take place in an asteroid belt near a dying star with massive space stations nearby. Players seem to be able to direct their fleets and shoot laser beams at each other’s ships. 

The game is expected to hit the market next year.  

NetEase has been gunning for some of the world’s most massive sci-fi games recently. Last week, it was announced that it would invest US$100 million in Halo’s creator Bungie to help the troubled studio develop a franchise apart from Destiny.

As China’s second largest gaming business and the sixth most profitable in the world, NetEase is also betting big on AR games. It’s a major backer of Pokémon Go’s creator Niantic, having pumped in some US$200 million along with other companies,.

In January, it was revealed that NetEase planned to publish the AR smash hit Pokémon Go in China later this year.

And last year when Apple introduced its first version of ARKit, NetEase immediately jumped onboard and published an AR puzzle game named Yume.

Yume is an AR puzzle game that features Chinese style paintings and Chinese poetry. (Picture: NetEase)

It also unveiled a pair of AR glasses at January’s CES, which it said would sell for less than US$30.