|Niantic Labs (2010–2015)|
|Privately held company|
|Industry||Mobile applications, mobile games, alternate reality games, augmented reality games|
|Headquarters||San Francisco, California, U.S.|
|Products||Field Trip, Ingress, Pokémon Go|
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 the upcoming Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. The company was formed as Niantic Labs in 2010 by Keyhole, Inc. founder John Hanke as an internal startup within Google. The company later became an independent entity in October 2015.
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.
The company was formed in 2010 by Keyhole, Inc. founder 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.
Spinoff from Google and investments
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 it 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, 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.
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.
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.
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 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". It was announced that additional details will be revealed in 2018.
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