Harry Potter, the Platform, and the Future of Niantic

Harry Potter, the Platform, and the Future of Niantic

5:02pm, 12th April, 2019
What is If they recognize the name, most people would rightly tell you it’s a company that makes mobile games, like Pokémon GO, or Ingress, or Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. But no one at Niantic really seems to box it up as a mobile gaming company. Making these games is a big part of what the company does, yes, but the games are part of a bigger picture: they are a springboard, a place to figure out the constraints of what they can do with augmented reality today, and to figure out how to build the tech that moves it forward. Niantic wants to wrap their learnings back into a platform upon which others can build their own AR products, be it games or something else. And they want to be ready for whatever comes after smartphones. Niantic is a bet on augmented reality becoming more and more a part of our lives; when that happens, they want to be the company that powers it. This is Part 3 of our on Niantic, looking at its past, present, and potential future. You can and . The reading time for this article is 24 minutes (6,050 words) The platform play After the absurd launch of Pokémon GO, everyone wanted a piece of the AR pie. Niantic got more pitches than they could take on, I’m told, as rights holders big and small reached out to see if the company might build something with their IP or franchise. But Niantic couldn’t build it all. From art, to audio, to even just thinking up new gameplay mechanics, each game or project they took on would require a mountain of resources. What if they focused on letting these other companies build these sorts of things themselves? That’s the idea behind Niantic’s Real World Platform. This platform is a key part of Niantic’s game plan moving forward, with the company having as many people working on the platform as it has on its marquee money maker, Pokémon GO. There are tons of pieces that go into making things like GO or Ingress, and Niantic has spent the better part of the last decade figuring out how to make them all fit together. They’ve built the core engine that powers the games and, after a bumpy start with Pokémon GO’s launch, figured out how to scale it to hundreds of millions of users around the world. They’ve put considerable work into figuring out how to detect cheaters and spoofers and give them the boot. They’ve built a social layer, with systems like friendships and trade. They’ve already amassed that real-world location data that proved so challenging back when it was building Field Trip, with all of those real-world points of interest that now serve as portals and Pokéstops. Niantic could help other companies with real-world events, too. That might seem funny after the mess that was the first Pokémon GO Fest (). But Niantic turned around, went back to the same city the next year, and pulled it off. That experience — that battle-testing — is valuable. Meanwhile, the company has pulled off countless huge Ingress events, and a number of Pokémon GO side events called “Safari Zones.” CTO Phil Keslin confirmed to me that event management is planned as part of the platform offering. As Niantic builds new tech — like, say, more advanced AR or faster ways to sync AR experiences between devices — it’ll all get rolled into the platform. With each problem they solve, the platform offering would grow. But first they need to prove that there’s a platform to stand on. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite Niantic’s platform, as it exists today, is the result of years of building their own games. It’s the collection of tools they’ve built and rebuilt along the way, and that already powers Ingress Prime and Pokémon GO. But to prove itself as a platform company, Niantic needs to show that they can do it again. That they can take these engines, these tools, and, working with another team, use them for something new.
The definitive Niantic reading guide

The definitive Niantic reading guide

3:38pm, 10th April, 2019
In just a few years, has evolved from internal side project into an independent industry trailblazer. Having reached tremendous scale in such a short period of time, Niantic acts as a poignant crash course for founders and company builders. As our shows, lessons from the team’s experience building the Niantic’s product offering remain just as fresh as painful flashbacks to the problems encountered along the way. As we did for our , we’ve poured through every analysis we could find on and have compiled a supplemental list of resources and readings that are particularly useful for getting up to speed on the company. Reading time for this article is about 9.5 minutes. It is part of the . Feature illustration by Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch. I. Background: The Story of Niantic | August 2015 | In August of 2015, Niantic announced that it would spin out from and become an independent company. As discussed in WSJ’s coverage of the news, Niantic looked at the spin out as a way to accelerate growth and collaborate with the broader entertainment ecosystem.