Niantic, Inc. is an American software development company based in San Francisco, which is best known for developing the augmented reality mobile games Ingress, Pokémon Go, and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. The company was formed as Niantic Labs in 2010 as an internal startup within Google. The company became an independent entity in October 2015.
The company was formed in 2010 by John Hanke as Niantic Labs, an internal startup within Google. The company took its name from the whaling vessel Niantic, which came to San Francisco during the California Gold Rush in the 1800s. At the time Ingress was launched, Niantic had 35 employees.
As an independent, private company
The company spun out of Google in October 2015 soon after Google's announcement of its restructuring as Alphabet Inc. During the spinout, Niantic announced that Google, Nintendo, and The Pokémon Company would invest up to $30 million in Series-A funding, $20 million upfront and the remaining $10 million in financing conditioned upon the company achieving certain milestones, to support the growth of the company and its products. In February 2016, Niantic announced that it secured an additional $5 million in Series A funding including investment from venture capital firms Alsop Louie Partners and You & Mr. Jones Brandtech Ventures, as well as angel investors Lucas Nealan, Cyan Banister, and Scott Banister. While adding more support for the growth of the company, this investment enabled Niantic to bring in strategic industry pioneers including the addition of Gilman Louie to its board.
In November 2017, Niantic raised $200 million in Series B funding from multiple investors, led by Spark Capital. Spark's Megan Quinn joined Niantic's board of directors during this investment round.
In January 2019, it was reported that Niantic raised an additional $245 million in a Series C fundraising round. The round was led by Institutional Venture Partners (IVP), but also included investments from strategic partners such as AXiomatic Gaming and Samsung Ventures.
Acquisitions and investments
In November 2017, it was announced that Niantic acquired Evertoon, an app which allows users to make short, personalized films. According to the company’s announcement, the acquisition is meant to help build social systems. At the time of the acquisition, Evertoon was only 18 months old and had only 5 employees.
In February 2018, Niantic announced that it had acquired augmented reality company Escher Reality, a team focused on building persistent, cross platform, multi-user experiences. Hanke stated that Niantic planned to allow third-party developers to build AR games similar to Pokémon Go.
In June 2018, Niantic announced the acquisition of computer vision and machine learning company Matrix Mill. The Matrix Mill team has spent years focusing on perfecting augmented reality occlusion by building deep neural networks that can infer 3D information about the surrounding world. The acquisition significantly advances Niantic's efforts to deliver planet-scale AR and provide even more realistic AR experiences.
In July 2018, Niantic announced the acquisition of LA-based gaming studio, Seismic Games. Composed of industry veterans from EA/Pandemic and Activision, and best known for co-developing Marvel Strike Force, the addition of Seismic Games to Niantic significantly accelerates their ability to deliver all new AR experiences that continue to bridge the physical and digital worlds.
In November 2018, Niantic invested in DigiLens alongside Mitsubishi Chemical's Diamond Edge Ventures. The investment will help DigiLens develop holographic waveguide displays for augmented reality applications.
In June 2019, Niantic announced the acquisition of London-based development studio, Sensible Object. Niantic welcomes Sensible Object to significantly advance their efforts in developing a wide range of gaming experiences as the core of Niantic London.
Niantic Real World Platform
In June 2018, Niantic shared a sneak peek behind the technology they have been developing for years: the Niantic Real World Platform. The core platform consists of a suite of tools including: AR Cloud, anti-cheat security, POI data, IAP, social, analytics, CRM, sponsorship, and more. Niantic mentioned that they intend to open up the platform in the future for use by third party developers.
In December 2018, Niantic announced their Beyond Reality Developer Contest offering third party developers an opportunity to develop a new game experience on the Niantic Real World Platform for a chance to compete for a prize pool of more than $1 million.
Ingress and Ingress Prime
Niantic's first augmented reality game Ingress was initially made available on Android by invitation only in November 2012 then released publicly in October 2013. An iOS version was released in July 2014.
Initially, Niantic had taken an alternative approach to monetization, veering away from more traditional mobile application development standards such as ad placements and in-app purchases. However, following the split with Google in 2015, in-app purchasing was implemented for Ingress. Founder and CEO John Hanke has noted that Ingress is a sort of proof of concept, adding that a next step could involve packaging application programming interfaces (APIs) from the Ingress application in order to entice developers. Companies that partnered with Niantic were marketed through the narrative of Ingress rather than direct marketing techniques. Some of those companies include Jamba Juice, Hint Water, Vodafone, Motorola, AXA, SoftBank Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), Lawson, Ito En, and Circle K.
In November 2018, Niantic released a thoroughly revamped version of the game branded as Ingress Prime. Prime is completely rewritten and Niantic used critical learnings gained from Pokémon GO and Ingress for its development. Niantic also retained the older Ingress game as a separate download named Scanner [REDACTED]. The intention of the older Ingress game is to help aid the transition to Prime as feature parity is reached between both games in 2019.
In collaboration with Craftar Studio, Ingress: The Animation, a television series based on the popular augmented reality game was produced. It began airing in Japan on Fuji TV's +Ultra programming block in October 2018. On April 30, 2019, the series premiered globally on Netflix.
Endgame: Proving Ground
Niantic's second announced (but currently unreleased) mobile game, Endgame, is a transmedia storytelling project consisting of an alternate reality game, Endgame: Ancient Truth, novels by James Frey starting with Endgame: The Calling, and the mobile app, Endgame: Proving Ground.
In September 2015, it was announced that Niantic was developing Pokémon Go in partnership with Nintendo and The Pokémon Company for iOS and Android devices. The game was initially released in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States in July 2016 (and released to much of the rest of the world throughout the remainder of 2016), where it became an overnight global phenomenon, significantly increasing the use and visibility of augmented reality technology. In addition to topping app store charts in most regions, Apple Inc. announced that Pokémon Go had become the most downloaded app in a first week ever, which was topped by Super Mario Run later that year. Reports indicated that users were spending more time on Pokémon Go than on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Tinder, and Instagram. In one month, Pokémon Go was downloaded more than 100 million times, with daily revenues exceeding $10 million. Exactly two months after its launch, at Apple's September keynote, John Hanke announced that Pokémon Go exceeded 500 million downloads worldwide and that players around the world had walked over 4.6 billion kilometers. By December, it was announced that the kilometer distance achieved in September had nearly doubled to over 8.7 billion kilometers, meaning that players had collectively walked further than the distance to Pluto. By the end of February 2017, Pokémon Go had surpassed over 650 million downloads. During Pokémon Go's Adventure Week in-game promo in May 2017, Niantic announced that players had collectively walked over 15.8 billion kilometers, roughly the distance from Earth past the edge of the solar system. On June 8, 2017, it was revealed that Pokémon Go had been downloaded over 750 million times globally. In 2019, it was revealed that Pokémon Go had been downloaded over 1 billion times.
Like Ingress, Pokémon Go has a similar approach to monetization. The game has two main revenue streams, in-app purchases and regional partnerships. To date, Pokémon Go has established several partnerships around the globe among which include Sprint and Starbucks in the United States, Reliance Jio in India, and Unibail-Rodamco in Europe.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
In November 2017, it was announced that Niantic was developing Harry Potter: Wizards Unite in partnership with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and WB Games San Francisco, under the Portkey Games banner. The mobile AR game, inspired by J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World and Harry Potter, is said to allow players to "explore real-world neighbourhoods and cities to discover mysterious artifacts, learn to cast spells, and encounter legendary beasts and iconic characters along the way". The game was released in New Zealand as an open beta on April 16, 2019. Beta testing in Australia began on May 1, 2019. The game officially started its worldwide rollout on June 21, 2019, with a release in the United States and United Kingdom, and released to much of the rest of the world on June 22, 2019.
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