On July 5, 2016, we were living in a world without Pokémon Go. On July 6, 2016, it was inescapable.
The wildfire phenomenon that is Pokémon Go, still roaring but not burning quite as brightly these days, took over in a matter of days. The game went from zero to tens of millions of players in an incredibly short period of time.
It’s the fastest-growing game ever — beating apps like Twitter and Snapchat for daily users at one point. 50 million people played it this summer, each month, all over the world.
The company behind it? Niantic Labs, a team of about 70 people in San Francisco.
Niantic actually used to be a part of Google, before amicably splitting to become its own company — with Google as one of three primary investors, alongside Nintendo and The Pokémon Company — back in 2015. The first project Niantic made after leaving Google: Pokémon Go.
So, what’s next?
“Our platform has gotten the attention of a lot of people with interesting ideas for games that they wanna build. There will be other games,” Niantic Labs CEO said in this week’s Recode Decode podcast.
But with just 70 people, and a major online game to keep supporting in Pokémon Go, Niantic isn’t looking to make those future projects themselves. Instead, it sounds like Niantic is going to franchise out the technology that powers Pokémon Go.
“You can’t corner the market on creativity,” Hanke said on the podcast. “There are a lot of great ideas out there, great teams out there. Our goal is to enable them with our unique real world technology and the data.” Hanke’s speaking to the same technology, albeit in an older form, that powered Niantic’s previous game (under the Google umbrella), which was called “Ingress.”
Think of “Ingress” like a sci-fi, non-Pokémon version of Pokémon Go: It used geolocation to put players into a form of virtual online world, through smartphones. It was a test ground for much of what makes Pokémon Go the hit that it is (outside of the pocket monsters themselves, of course).
Now, instead of that, think of, say, “Ghostbusters Go.” Or how about “Harry Potter Go”? They probably wouldn’t work exactly like Pokémon Go does, but the underlying online structure of a shared world combined with geolocation could be applied to lots of different things.
It sounds like we’re not the first people to realise that. “We’re hearing some really interesting things from people who’ve come to us, and I think there’s a lot of room for this genre of games to grow,” Hanke said.
He didn’t offer any hints about what those “interesting things” are, but he did say there’s one direction Niantic probably won’t go: “There probably won’t be an Angry Birds Go, I can tell you that.” Phew.
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