How does Niantic, the developer of “Pokémon GO”, which earns $1.3 billion a year and is valued at $9 billion, play the Metaverse?

The AR Metaverse blueprint outlined by Niantic is unfolding, propelling it a major step toward a real-world version of the Metaverse.

In July 2016, “Pokémon GO” was launched. According to data, the game took less than 5 hours to occupy the top download of IOS apps, and in less than a week, “Pokémon GO” was released. Dream GO has reached 21 million daily active users in the US, which means it is officially the most popular mobile game in US history.

“Pokémon GO” is an AR pet development and battle RPG mobile game, which can explore, capture, fight and exchange Pokémon that appear in the real world, so many crazy players are “stuck in trees”, “” News such as “entering a minefield by mistake” and even “breaking into a police station” were frequently reported.

Even if you don’t look at the data, you can feel the popularity of “Pokémon GO”, and Niantic, the developer behind it, has become famous for it. On November 23, 2021, Niantic announced that it has received $300 million in new financing from Coatue, the world’s largest technology stock hedge fund, at a valuation of $9 billion .

Niantic said the new funding will be used to invest in existing games and new applications, and serve as an important foundation for its Metaverse.

So what kind of company is Niantic? And how did it grow the company’s valuation to nearly $10 billion in just a few years? This article will introduce you to Niantic, while digging into how the company lays out the Metaverse.

How did Niantic come about?

The history of Niantic begins in 2001, when John Hanke and Brian McClendon, with a passion for geospatial technology and applications, founded Keyhole, a digital mapping company, which was later acquired by Google in 2004. acquired and renamed Google Earth.

John Hanke and his team continued to explore and build 3D models of hundreds of cities, countries, and planets in Google Earth, as well as products such as Google Maps, Street View, and more.

Until 2010, John Hanke’s team formed Niantic Labs within Google to explore LBS AR . (LBS, or location-based services, refers to services that revolve around geographic location data)

Niantic Labs was founded with the idea of ​​combining maps and games to bring users an unprecedented magical experience.

But such a concept seemed to be inconsistent with Google’s development direction at the time, so Niantic Labs took 6 months to split from Google and became an independent company in October 2015.

In the same year, Niantic reached a three-way partnership with Pokemon and Nintendo, and obtained a $20 million Series A financing from them. At that time, the investors said that if Niantic achieved certain goals, the financing amount would continue to increase.

As a result, on February 25, 2016, Niantic received an additional $5 million in Series A funding, with new investors including Alsop Louie Partners, You&MrJones, Japan’s Fuji TV, and several angel investors .

In July 2016, Niantic officially launched “Pokémon GO”, and the next story is as we can see. In less than half a year, the revenue of “Pokémon GO”, which is popular all over the world, has exceeded US$1 billion, making it the fastest game app in history to break the US$1 billion revenue threshold .

Such good results attracted a lot of investors in 2017. On November 24, Niantic announced that it had received $200 million in Series B financing. This round of financing was led by Spark Capital, with participation from NetEase, You&Mr. Jones Brandtech Ventures, FoundersFund, MeritechCapital Partners, and Javelin Ventures. At this point, Niantic was valued at more than $2 billion .

At the end of the same year, Niantic announced a partnership with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment) and WB Games (Warner Games) to co-develop Harry Potter: The Wizards Unite (Harry Potter: The Wizards Unite).

At the same time, Niantic also announced Ingress Prime, a reimagining of its LBS AR game debut, Ingress, with both titles featuring new technologies to bring players an immersive gaming experience.

In 2018, the number of downloads of “Pokémon GO” exceeded the 800 million mark, and then people familiar with the matter revealed that Niantic was raising a new round of financing of 200 million US dollars, but it was not until January 16, 2019 that Niantic announced that it was completed. $245 million in Series C financing.

Led by venture capital firm IVP, with participation from aXiomatic Gaming, Battery Ventures, Causeway Media Partners, CRV and Samsung Ventures, the latest round of financing brings Niantic’s company valuation to about $4 billion.

And Niantic’s most recent financing is the aforementioned $300 million financing, which will be used to build a “real-world Metaverse.” As John Hanke insists, he believes that compared to VR, AR is the future of the Metaverse, and “building a Metaverse based on the real world” is its constant goal .

What does Pokémon GO bring to Niantic?

When it comes to Niantic, we have to talk about “Pokémon GO”. “Pokémon GO” is an AR pet development and battle RPG mobile game jointly produced and developed by Nintendo, The Pokémon Company and Niantic Labs. Niantic is responsible for the game. Provide technical support AR.

The gameplay of the game is the same as the setting in the Pokemon animation. By exploring and catching Pokemon (a kind of elves), you can fight with other people’s Pokemon, or exchange Pokemon, but the most brilliant setting in the AR part of it.

The AR function is also called augmented reality, which means adding a virtual world to the real world to provide more additional information and interaction.

And this game is to turn smartphones into real-life “Pokémon” detectors, using GPS technology to superimpose the virtual world where these Pokémon are located on top of the real world, allowing players to experience the real world. Interact with the virtual world of Pokémon .

Many settings in the virtual world of the game are also closely related to the real world. For example, Pokémon are divided into different attributes, and the place where Pokémon with each attribute appears will be closer to the real world, such as water-type treasures. Dreams are more likely to appear near water in the real world, etc.

Therefore, in order to capture the favorite Pokémon, players will spontaneously go out and explore the surrounding environment.

With such a novel way of playing, with a new way of interaction, and with the help of the world’s largest IP, Pokemon GO, “Pokemon GO” quickly became popular all over the world, and its popularity is already a record-breaking level.

“Pokémon GO” was certified by five Guinness World Records on August 17, 2016, and was recognized as “the most profitable mobile game since its launch in one month” and “the fastest mobile game with a revenue of 100 million US dollars (time-consuming mobile game)” 20 days)””Number of downloads after one month of launch (about 130 million times)””The number of downloads in the most countries after one month of launch (about 70 countries)””The revenue after one month of launch is in the most countries Number 1 (about 55 countries)”.

The unprecedented success of Pokémon GO means a lot to Nian a tic .

The first and most direct is the embodiment of revenue. Niantic’s current revenue mainly comes from “Pokémon GO”, so there is no need to worry about cash flow in the short term.

Secondly, Niantic has always had its own set of clear ideas for the AR industry. The success of “Pokémon GO” has also made Niantic a blockbuster and won the favor of many capitals.

In this way, Niantic has more funds to invest and incubate some start-ups according to its own ideas, promote cooperation with large enterprises, and accelerate the deployment of AR industry.

At the same time, “Pokémon GO” also verified Niantic’s idea of ​​AR games, and also developed a widely accepted solution for LBS technology.

Since Niantic focuses on the AR application direction, every step is crucial for it, and this success is a “stimulant” affirmation for Niantic’s existing development path in the AR direction, which is of great significance as a milestone. .

In addition, the success of “Pokémon GO” has also brought a lot of influence to the field of games and AR.

“Pokémon GO” shows the huge potential of LBS AR games, and also brings a new way of thinking, which attracts a large number of developers and enterprises to try this novel game type , and some enterprises with well-known IP also In active exploration, LBS AR games such as “Jurassic World Live”, “Ghostbusters World”, “Minecraft AR” and “The Witcher: Monster Killer” have been launched.

For Niantic, the success of “Pokémon GO” is only a foundation. Niantic will have more directions for how the AR field will develop. “Pokémon GO” with many users is undoubtedly the best test field. , which step Niantic will explore, we will continue to wait and see.

How does Niantic target the Metaverse?

The Metaverse is a broad concept, mainly referring to a virtual world that can interact with the real world, and such a virtual world can be either a virtual world in VR that completely simulates all scenarios, or an AR in combination with the real world. virtual world. Therefore, AR games naturally belong to the direction of the Metaverse, but the Metaverse has not been “fired” before.

However, everyone’s definition of the Metaverse is different, and different tech giants also have their own unique insights into the Metaverse. Niantic CEO John Hanke has a clear disapproval of such a Metaverse compared to Meta’s more supportive understanding of the VR Metaverse.

In a blog post, he hopes Niantic will inspire everyone to “get up, get outside the house, and connect with others and the world,” rather than pursuing a virtual, digital world that offers so-called exploration, Social and virtual space functions. He believes that technology should serve humanity, not the other way around.

In fact, he is more optimistic about the reality version of the Metaverse based on AR, which can encourage people to go outdoors, explore around the city, and reconnect with other people. In the future he envisions, the virtual world can be directly superimposed on the real world, enhancing the properties of both.

Take “Pokémon GO” as an example, the virtual world in the game does not occupy people’s attention in the real world, but motivates people to interact more in the real world.

In this process, players will not only gain Pokémon, but may meet like-minded friends and open their hearts; or exercise their bodies and see more scenery.

From this point of view, this is indeed an “augmented” reality from another perspective, and the popularity of “Pokémon GO” undoubtedly proves that the AR version of the Metaverse has great potential.

But to achieve John Hanke’s goals for an AR version of the Metaverse, it must not rely on just one game, and Niantic is very aware of this problem.

Niantic is well aware that from a technical point of view, the relationship between hardware capabilities and software applications is very deep. Usually, application content and scenarios will develop rapidly after a mature hardware and user base . Therefore, Niantic’s layout for the future development of AR is a combination of hardware and software.

On the hardware side, Niantic announced in late 2019 that it would partner with Qualcomm to launch new AR smart glasses that will use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2 chip designed for VR/AR, combining Qualcomm’s XR2 hardware and software with Niantic’s platform , powering world-scale AR games that can be played simultaneously by millions of users.

At present, the prototype of AR glasses has been tested and has the characteristics of high brightness and large field of view, which is suitable for outdoor scenes.

In terms of software, Niantic’s own game studio is also constantly launching new AR games, but more importantly, Niantic Lightship, a free and open AR development platform launched by Niantic.

The platform brings together Niantic’s AR application development experience and data over the years. Developers can directly access AR game development resources such as APIs, tutorials, and operation methods from the web page, especially to promote the development of AR world maps, which will accelerate Niantic and The cooperation of third-party developers and the prosperity of AR application ecology.

The current focus of Lightship is on trying to attract more developers to the platform, for which Niantic has established its own creator program and Beyond Reality Fund to attract AR and LBS projects to the Niantic Real World Platform (Augmented Reality Development Kit Design ) to help third-party developers speed up the development of LBS games .

Based on these two main lines, Niantic has also started a “shopping frenzy” mode, continuously investing in or acquiring AR-related companies. For example, the acquisition of AR display manufacturer DigiLens, game short video recording application Lowkey, API solution developer Hoss, 3D scanning application developer Scaniverse, and many game studios.

In terms of the organic combination of software and hardware, Niantic and Qualcomm have defined a true end-to-end architecture, including hardware, software and cloud technology, hoping to promote the development of the entire AR industry.

Will AR games be another “golden track” for the industry?

Although the outstanding performance of “Pokémon GO” is inseparable from its backing of the world’s largest IP Pokémon, this is not the only reason why it is so successful. By carefully observing the phenomena caused by this game, we will be more Good understanding of the potential of AR games.

Like general online games, “Pokémon GO” also designs many mechanisms to drive players to perform some specific behaviors. But it is also an LBS game, which will drive players to go out and go to a specific location, which breaks the mindset that ordinary online games can be played without leaving home as long as there is an internet connection.

AR+LBS games such as “Pokémon GO” seem to just add a geographical dimension, pulling the game out of the virtual world and binding it with the real world, supplemented by a certain incentive mechanism, Added some gameplay.

But just such a small step, the impact will be an unprecedented big step in the game industry and AR industry, with infinite possibilities.

First, such AR games bring more social possibilities between people. AR games of this type have many mechanics that drive people to perform certain actions, invisibly attaching new identities to each person, as well as new tasks .

Let many players have more opportunities or reasons to meet more people. With more social groups, network effects can be formed. There are many ways to monetize and make money. This is clear from how WeChat is monetized. This is also an important reason why tech giants always want to do social networking.

Second, this type of AR game brings more possibilities between people and business. Both pure gameplay can drive players to spontaneously go to certain places in the real world to perform certain actions.

Then if the game mechanism of the virtual world is combined with the real business behavior, as long as the thinking is a little more flexible, countless cases of combining virtual and real to promote physical business can be found, which will change many existing marketing methods.

In addition, the more important point is that this type of gameplay is equivalent to digitizing the real world, transforming the real world, and can give new meaning and value to many behaviors in the real world, which has a very large room for imagination.

For individuals, many things may no longer be boring, but very interesting and meaningful. For example, we are lifting dumbbells in the gym, but in fact, in AR games, this behavior becomes that we are logging, which can not only exercise, but also You can also obtain digital assets in the virtual world. If these digital assets become more valuable based on blockchain technology, this will motivate us to work hard.

For society, AR games will give us new identities and goals, and many people may work together to do something in the real world for the goals in the virtual world; at the same time, it will also quantify our behavior and bring new Collaboration and benefit distribution, and even the birth of new organizational forms and production relations, may even lead to changes in the way society operates in the future .

So, how to understand infinite possibilities? This goes back to the Metaverse itself.

The English word for Metaverse is Metaverse, which originally means the combination of Meta and verse, referring to “transcendence” and “universe” respectively, which means that the Metaverse is to transcend the existing universe. And LBS AR games like “Pokémon GO” are equivalent to adding a virtual world on top of the real earth.

However, such a virtual world will not affect the real world, and the production cost is not high. By analogy, there will be more LBS AR games in the future to build virtual worlds with different settings on the real earth. Maybe it will be an ancient battlefield, maybe it will be a magical world.

Then, countless different virtual worlds can be attached to a real earth, and then the Metaverse will literally surpass the current universe.

Therefore, there is no doubt that AR games will be a landmark “golden track” in the Metaverse.

It’s just from the current point of view, even if it is successful like “Pokémon GO”, it is just a small golden sand on this “golden track”. This treasure is still little known, and let’s see if Niantic will develop in the future. Will become the biggest gold digger in this gold mine.

Where is the next Pokémon GO?

Let’s take back the infinitely beautiful reverie, bring our eyes closer to a more realistic moment, and think about it, where is the next “Pokémon GO”?

“Pokémon GO”, as a very subversive product in the field of AR games in the past few years, still attracts many players to participate in it. “Demon” and “Onmyoji” are foreshadowing, some people may say that “Pokémon GO” is just a short-lived product, but the reality is exactly the opposite.

Statistics from Sensor Tower in June show that since the launch of Pokémon GO in July 2016, the total global revenue in the App Store and Google Play has exceeded $6 billion, with an average annual revenue of about $1 billion .

That is to say, even now, “Pokémon GO” is still one of the most profitable mobile games in the world. After all, in 2021, it will also generate $1.3 billion in revenue, ranking first in the global mobile game revenue list. seven.

This data strongly supports the future development direction of AR games we mentioned above. As the pioneer of AR games, “Pokémon GO” skillfully combines reality and virtual games, and it also allows us to see some wonderful things. Phenomenon.

For example, there was a robbery in Los Angeles in 2017, but the two police officers patrolling nearby not only did not rush to the crime scene, but drove the police car in the opposite direction. went.

Perhaps the charm of AR games is here. On the one hand, it is the fun of virtual games, and on the other hand, it also brings real-world interaction, which is very different from the online games we are familiar with. Therefore, Niantic has been exploring Can you create the next “Pokémon GO”?

In April this year, Niantic released the latest original game “Peridot”. The game also combines the popular LBS technology with the classic electronic pet gameplay (partial cultivation type) to create a unique AR scene game.

Although “Peridot” is still in the beta stage, it has received a lot of attention, and some players have high hopes for it .

But on the other hand, about a week ago, Bloomberg reported that Niantic has shut down 4 game projects and will lay off 85 to 90 people. The news caused a stir in the industry, after all, they are 6 billion US dollars away from completing. The game revenue milestone is only a month away, but they’ve already started so-called winter preparations.

However, it is foreseeable that with the operation of the AR development platform Lightship, this will bring good news to many AR game development teams, and it also means that some small players can test the waters of games similar to “Pokémon GO”. An AR hit game doesn’t necessarily have to be born in the hands of Niantic.

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:
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