science

Where does Pokémon Go want to go

Five years ago, on July 6, 2016, Pokémon Go, the first smartphone video game dedicated to Pokémon, was launched in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. The game, which arrived in Italy on July 15, made use of augmented reality and allowed many of its players to travel around the real world in search of those strange little animals known as Pokémon. Partly because it was based on The largest media franchise in the world Because it allowed outdoor play, the game was immediately a hit and a related cultural phenomenon, which continues to be a major profit for the California-based Niantic company that developed it.

Because yes, a lot of people keep playing. However, Niantic – which has successfully dedicated itself even before Pokémon Go to video game augmented reality – is looking further, in video games but not only. To try to reap the fruits of something he started cultivating twenty years ago.

The story of what would later become Niantic began in 2001 when and how Says The same company «a small team of computer scientists, gamers, cartographers, and AI researchers [intelligenza artificiale], passionate about geospatial applications and technologies » Keyhole was created. An interactive 3D mapping program that became its development, once the project passed under the supervision of Google, Google Earth. “I joined Google with the idea of ​​staying there for six months”, He said a technology crisis John Hanke, founder and CEO of Niantic “I stayed then another six months, and after six months after six months, it ended up being over ten years later.”

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Before it was an independent company, Niantic (at the time known as Niantic Labs) was actually an internal venture within Google, which it only separated from in 2015, the year it secured about $35 million in funding, became an independent private company and started Work on developing Pokémon GO.

Prior to that, he had developed and introduced Field Trip (“a location-based mobile app that points, just like a guide, to the most unusual and hidden objects in the area around you”) and above all, made itself noticed and appreciated with Ingress, a game of the year 2012 is very similar to Pokémon GO.

Ingress, meanwhile, evolved into Ingress Prime, was and still is a game that uses augmented reality and geolocation to allow players to travel around the real world in search of things that will allow them to level up. The game’s premises are sci-fi, and unlike Pokémon Go – it has nothing to do with any pre-existing media product. The fictitious premise of the game is that in 2012 along with Higgs boson Something known as “alien matter” has also been discovered: a strange and very powerful substance that appears to have a strange origin and – in short – allows those who control it to take over the world. Thus, those who play Ingress are divided into two factions (the Illuminati and the Resistance) who compete with each other in search and collection of these “strangers”.

In other words, Ingress is a giant science thief who, thanks to augmented reality, exploits places in the real world. Compared to Pokémon Go, it is also a bit more game I laughed, for example in less vibrant, fun and cartoonish colours.

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Ingress had a good following, but it never became the global phenomenon that Pokémon Go was. Quote By Niantic, in the first three months, it made its players travel more than eight billion kilometers in total, and that’s before the end of 2016, thus in less than six months, it generated over $1 billion in revenue. And although little has been said about it and many have removed it from their days or their smartphones, it continued to be going strong even after that.

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In 2017, the Pokémon Go app was downloaded more than 650 million times and the kilometers traveled reached more than 15 billion. In 2018, the number of downloads reached 800 million, and in 2019 the game generated more than 900 million dollars in revenue. All while in the meantime, among other things, the possibility to do so has been added Challenges between coaches (Much desirable) and special challenges to unlock new types of Pokemon.

A sign in Anchorage, Alaska in 2016 (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

The pandemic and travel restrictions were two major problems for a game that depends on the movement of its players. However, Niantic managed to get around them by preparing a series of Amazing changes to the game system, in order to make it usable even indoors, from home.

After 2019 it was already, from a revenue point of view, Best year in Pokémon GoWith the coronavirus, it was hard to do a better job. Instead, in 2020, Pokémon Go achieved just that, with revenue that, according to estimates by the analysis firm Sensor Tower, they were More than a billion dollars.

Hong Kong in 2016 (Lam Yik Fei / Getty Images)

In short, within a few years, thanks to its in-game buying capabilities, Pokémon Go generated more than $5 billion in revenue and allowed Niantic – a former San Francisco startup named in honor of whaling ship Who came to town at the time of the gold rush – to get to one Evaluation Nearly 4 billion dollars.

2016 Pokémon Go players in Hong Kong (Lam Yik/GettyImages)

Meanwhile, Niantic also devoted herself to something else. While many may not have noticed, it was actually launched in the summer of 2019 Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, a game he wanted to play with the wizarding world of Harry Potter that Pokémon Go played with Pokémon (for example, he brought Goblin from the Gringotts magic bank In the newspaper’s editorial office) which, while technically very advanced, didn’t get an impressive following, probably because it was too similar to Pokémon Go.

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Although Wizards Unite was relatively wrong, there is no doubt that in recent years Niantic has been able to accumulate skills and information about its users and a lot of money to use in funding and developing new projects. How he wrote BloombergNiantic “plans to be much more than a meteor.” That’s why he’s working on so many other games that exploit augmented reality in his own way, looking further, “it’s trying to become something bigger than a video game studio.”

In particular, it appears that Niantic wants to exploit its prominent position in the emerging context of augmented reality. For several years now this seems possible to many The other important thing, an imminent and significant technological innovation; But, due to a series of (technical, but not only) problems, it is struggling to establish itself in a truly widespread and relevant way. It is possible, in fact, that the main interaction of many with augmented reality was precisely – and almost – thanks to Pokémon Go.

First of all, in the short and medium term, video games are still in Niantic’s plans Come on Pokemon Go. Why, he wrote BloombergFor now, “the company is very much dependent on the fortunes of that game, but it knows it needs new success.”

Already in the coming months, an augmented reality game has been developed with Hasbro and based on transformerAlien robots turned into road transport are the heroes of a modern cinematic epic. According to Hanke, “It is as if the Transformers were specifically designed for augmented reality, because they are not the heroes of battles over distant galaxies, but rather of the clashes taking place on the ground, perhaps in the middle of Los Angeles.”

Bloomberg He also wrote that so far Niantic is developing ten different games that “target different target players.” And after the pandemic, during which no new games were released, it could offer more than one game in a few months. Among the various games that the company is working on, there is one picmin (from partially plant-based creatures that have appeared in a series of Nintendo games) and one based on the boxed game Catan: both should be released by the end of 2021.

But since Transformers and other similar games may also have a similar fate to the Harry Potter universe, Niantic is looking further, in different ways. For example, it creates virtual reality related tools, platforms, and software to sell or rent to other developers.

Overall and from a medium and long-term perspective, Niantic is moving to occupy as much of the augmented reality context as possible, even beyond video games. For example, it is collaborating with the microchip manufacturer Qualcomm to create two augmented reality renderers (however, it can remain only a prototype). And in recent years, it has acquired several companies and startups dealing with augmented reality, with applications in very different contexts: from tourism to furniture, and from urban planning to education.

“Niantic continues to focus heavily on the idea that consumers want to move toward augmented reality,” Wrote technology crisis In November 2020, in an article describing the company’s intention “to build a constantly updated 3D map of the entire world.” A “smart” map, i.e. able to update itself from time to time by exploiting the information and images provided by users.

Niantic, is in a strange situation. It’s definitely on the cutting edge of augmented reality (according to the data it cited Bloomberg 85 percent of total revenue from augmented reality video games is his), but augmented reality is largely an unfulfilled promise. This is partly due to the lack of a particular technology capable of fully supporting its potential, and partly because, as analyst Julie Ask has always explained to Bloomberg, “Consumers don’t care about AR per se, they do. AR can do for them.” It is often still not clear what it can do in practice.

Moreover, although it has a clear advantage when it comes to video games, in the augmented reality sector, Niantic competes with huge companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Amazon or Google. a second technology crisisWhat Niantic and all of these companies can do is “patiently work on research and development, hoping to be at an advantage when augmented reality technology grows.” However, it is an activity that requires money, patience and the ability to invest today to earn, if necessary, in several years. It is clear that companies larger than Niantic can afford much greater money and expectations.

In the meantime, while Pokémon Go continues to generate profits after five years, Niantic already has become, Second technology crisis, “One of the software companies that changed the way we think about how we move in space.”

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Phil Schwartz

"Food expert. Unapologetic bacon maven. Beer enthusiast. Pop cultureaholic. General travel scholar. Total internet buff."

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