Niantic’s uncontested place at the helm of the augmented reality space may come predominantly from Pokémon Go, but that doesn’t mean the company has rested on its laurels since.
Innovations have continued inside and out of the title, and on this occasion, Go is once again being used to showcase what’s possible with the tech to Niantic’s largest audience.
In advance of the eagerly anticipated Monster Hunter Now, another AR game utilising a long-established monster-related IP, Niantic’s surprise new feature in Go may well play a key role in the game’s longevity going forward.
A path forward
The latest new feature, Routes, is essentially a form of user-generated content - or at least the closest to it seen in-game so far. In Routes players can choose a starting point for a walk and record their traversal from there. The paths they walk are then sent to Niantic and, if approved, become Routes other players can follow in search of Zygarde Cells - a collectable needed to obtain the rare legendary Pokémon Zygarde.
The ability to create Routes is still being rolled out to select players, but anyone can follow them as of now, and the creation side is expected to become more widely available over time.
This innovation - allowing players to create more content for each other - comes shortly after the game’s seventh anniversary, with more than 600 billion Pokémon having been been caught. If the feature proves popular it's something that could prove likewise in their other titles.
Pokémon Go may be the flagship, but it is far from Niantic’s only game. The success of others has been hard to predict, with a total of four games having been cancelled last summer alone.
Pikmin Bloom is still among Niantic’s surviving sprouts, recently used to promote the latest Pikmin game on Switch. There’s also Wol, a mixed reality game leveraging AI, and Peridot, an AR 3D pet-taming game, which both released this year.
Even so, a Marvel AR game has been cancelled and 230 employees were laid off in June. Which sets the scene for Monster Hunter Now's vital AR-make-or-break launch later this year.
Monster Hunter Now is still on track having opened up for pre-registrations just last week, but the question has to be asked… Will Monster Hunter Now be the next big thing, or is global AR success only possible with the power of Pokémon?
In a social gaming push, Niantic's previous addition to Pokemon Go was a companion app, Campfire.