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Pokémon Go to Minecraft Earth: the successes and failures of AR mobile games

Can anyone compete with Pokémon Go’s success in the AR genre?
Pokémon Go to Minecraft Earth: the successes and failures of AR mobile games
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Whilst Pokémon Go is clearly a dominant player in the mobile gaming space and a paragon of the AR genre, augmented reality as a whole hasn’t always proven to be so successful. Many have tried to follow in the smash-hit’s footsteps – Pokémon Go’s developer Niantic itself included – but results have ranged from moderate successes to shelved and cancelled games.

Who will survive?

Many AR games have aimed to tap into the fanbases of successful and beloved IP, just as Pokémon Go did in 2016. However, even this has not been enough to guarantee success. Minecraft Earth lasted just shy of two years before ending support in June 2021 and deleting all player data (excluding Character Creator and Minecoin entitlements) that same July.

In January 2022, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite also shut down its services one month on from its removal of in-app purchase options. Like Minecraft Earth, Wizards Unite also launched in 2019. It made around $12 million in its first month but had a noticeable decline even by the end of the year, ahead of the pandemic. This showed that even a Niantic AR game wasn’t assured the same achievements as Pokémon Go.

After all, Niantic cancelled four projects this summer and laid off approximately 8 percent of its workforce due to a potential "economic storm". One of the cancelled games, Heavy Metal, was a title using the Transformers IP and had already entered its beta testing phase.

Still in Bloom

Pikmin Bloom is still weathering the AR storm however, out in the wild and celebrating its first anniversary. As another Niantic game using a Nintendo IP, its successes have been moderate compared to Pokémon Go’s, generating $473,000 in revenue in its first two weeks after launch compared to Go’s $116.4 million in its first fortnight.

Ludia has also thrown its hat into the augmented reality ring with Jurassic World Alive, a game which stomped to revenues beyond $100 million and 25 million downloads in three years. Whilst an impressive feat in itself, even the Jurassic Park IP cannot bare fangs against Pokémon, with Go averaging $1 billion per year in player spending.

Of course, not all of Niantic’s attempts at AR have been using preestablished IP; last November, the developer partnered with rewards and payment app Fold to create an AR Bitcoin metaverse experience, and this April Niantic unveiled Peridot, an AR game that would feature creatures from an original IP.