Two summers ago it was the international summer craze that had kids, and not only, walking around parks, and occasionally into ponds, with eyes firmly glued to their smartphones. Pokémon Go, an augmented reality (AR) game that, with the help of a view through a smartphone, superimposes Pokémon characters and other animated elements onto the real world.
Players take on the role of Pokémon hunters and collectors, attempting to locate and snare the fictitious creatures based on the cult Japanese-style video games series first released for Nintendo’s Game Boy back in 1996. Pokémon come in all manner of weird and wonderful forms and dispositions. Some are friendly or at least pose no threat while others fearsome and minded to attack.
A freemium game, downloadable and playable for free but featuring optional in-game purchases, the Pokémon Go phenomenon had generated significantly over $2 billion in revenues for its creator Niantic by the end of 2018. Spun out of Google-parent Alphabet as an independent company in 2015, Niantic’s valuation has now hit $4 billion following a recent investment round in which it raised $245 million.
The company is set to release its new title this year, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, a game that has been developed in partnership with WB Games. However, the investment recently raised is earmarked for another, broader project – an AR operating system Niantic is working on. The Niantic Real World Platform will help AR developers bridge the real and digital worlds and is likely to boost the wider AR sector the spans gaming and educational and training products. AR has clear applications in training professionals in sectors such as health and emergency services to the military.
The latest technology in the world of AR is still at a relatively early stage but, including developments at Niantic as well as rival platform being built by Google and Apple, is demonstrating signs that it is coming of age. The advantage that Niantic’s Real World Platform will have over those of Google and Apple is that it will be ‘platform neutral’ and mean AR products developed on it will be potentially compatible across PCs, consoles and mobile devices.