pokemon

Nine lessons on how Niantic reached a $4B valuation

Posted by | Apps, augmented reality, best practices, Customer Service, EC-1, Gaming, harry potter, harry potter wizards unite, john hanke, Mobile, niantic, Phil Keslin, pokemon, Pokémon Go, product, scaling, social networks, Startups, TC, user growth, Virtual reality | No Comments

We’ve captured much of Niantic’s ongoing story in the first three parts of our EC-1, from its beginnings as an “entrepreneurial lab” within Google, to its spin-out as an independent company and the launch of Pokémon GO, to its ongoing focus on becoming a platform for others to build augmented reality products upon.

It’s not an origin story that serves as an easily replicable blueprint — but if we zoom out a bit, what’s to be learned?

A few key themes stuck with me as I researched Niantic’s story so far. Some of them – like the challenges involved with moving millions of users around the real world – are unique to this new augmented reality that Niantic is helping to create. Others – like that scaling is damned hard – are well-understood startup norms, but interesting to see from the perspective of an experienced team dealing with a product launch that went from zero to 100 real quick.

The reading time for this article is 21 minutes (5,125 words).

Build on top of what works best

Everything Niantic has built so far is an evolution of what the team had built before it. Each major step on Niantic’s path has a clear footprint that precedes it; a chunk of DNA that proved advantageous, and is carried along into the next thing.

Looking back, it’s a cycle we can see play out on repeat: build a thing, identify what works about it, trim the extra bits, then build a new thing from that foundation.

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Pokémon Sword and Shield to land on Nintendo Switch this year

Posted by | Gadgets, Gaming, Nintendo Switch, pokemon | No Comments

Nintendo and The Pokémon Company have unveiled the next Pokémon game in the main series. The new game will come in two variants later this year — Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield.

Nintendo announced the new game in a Pokémon Direct live stream. And if you’ve been playing Pokémon in the past, you’ll feel right at home. The design of the world and the characters look just like Pokémon Let’s Go on the Nintendo Switch, but with more details.

There will be a new region called Galar and it vaguely looks like the U.K. In addition to cities, you’ll be walking around mountains, caverns and woods. And, of course, there will be new monsters, new gym leaders, new fights and a blank Pokédex to fill.

Seeing this brand new world feels surreal when you think about the Game Boy days. Nintendo is probably going to sell a ton of games to new players and older players who still have fond memories of the early days of the franchise.

The new starting roster is made of three different monsters — Grookey, Scorbunny and Sobble. You’ll have plenty of time to think about your pick as the game should hit the stores at the end of 2019.

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Niantic finalizes its Series C at $245M with a valuation of nearly $4B

Posted by | funding, Gaming, niantic, pokemon, TC | No Comments

We’ve known since around December that Niantic (the company behind Pokémon GO and the soon to be released Harry Potter Wizards Unite) was in the middle of raising a ton of money for its Series C round. At the time, it looked like it’d come in around $200 million.

The company has just officially announced the round, disclosing the final amount: $245 million.

Niantic says that the round was led by IVP, and backed by aXiomatic Gaming, Battery Ventures, Causeway Media Partners, CRV and Samsung Ventures. They also confirmed that the company’s current valuation is “nearly” $4 billion, as rumored when word of the round was first floating around.

This raise comes just as Niantic is plotting its next steps, post overwhelming Pokémon success. It’s just about to launch another game based on massively nostalgic IP with Wizards Unite, all while working on slowly opening up its armory of AR frameworks (and its massive database of locational points of interest) for third-party developers to build upon.

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Niantic confirms that Pokémon GO is getting PvP battles ‘soon’

Posted by | Gaming, niantic, pokemon, Pokémon Go, TC | No Comments

Two and a half years after the launch of Pokémon GO, it’s still missing one major staple of the main series games: player versus player battling.

That’s about to change.

In a series of teaser tweets this morning, the company confirmed that the battle system is on the way, noting only that it’s “coming soon.”

Hmm…what’s this? 🔍🤔pic.twitter.com/EyCRUeVINd

— Pokémon GO (@PokemonGoApp) November 30, 2018

❗🤨pic.twitter.com/QRkqcA6U2O

— Pokémon GO (@PokemonGoApp) November 30, 2018

❗❗😮pic.twitter.com/2Zg5PvNUv6

— Pokémon GO (@PokemonGoApp) November 30, 2018

Get prepared… Trainer Battles are coming soon to Pokémon GO❗#GOBattle pic.twitter.com/AUWyhNGlT7

— Pokémon GO (@PokemonGoApp) November 30, 2018

Battling is the feature perhaps most demanded by the player base — particularly after the other oh-so-demanded feature, trading, was finally added around six months ago. While players have long been able to battle Pokémon stored in gyms, or work together to take down bigger/badder Pokémon that show up in raids, there’s never been the sort of real-time, head-to-head battling system for which the series is so well-known.

In August of this year, a rep for Niantic mentioned that their goal was to get it out by the end of the year. Given these tweets, it’s looking like that’ll happen.

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Pokémon GO update bringing ‘mon from the Sinnoh region is live

Posted by | Apps, augmented reality, Gaming, Mobile, niantic, pokemon, Pokémon Go | No Comments

If you’ve been laying off the Pokémon GO for a while due to a lack of new monsters, prepare to be glued to your phone again. Niantic is now adding pokémon from the rugged Sinnoh region that first appeared in 2007’s Diamond, Pearl and Platinum games.

Of course, it’s not so simple as a dump of a hundred new ‘mon into your area. The new guys are arriving in waves, likely meaning the most common sorts will start appearing today, while cooler ones and sets of themed critters will arrive over the coming weeks.

These are part of the Generation 4 set, but it’s not clear yet which will be appearing first or indeed at all. It’s entirely up to Niantic and you can be sure they’re going to mete out these little guys over several months, interspersed with other events — anything to keep you catching.

Everyone will probably have a Chimchar on their shoulder soon, because that sucker is cute, but ultimately everyone is going to want a Dialga. I get the feeling they’re going to be a regular feature at gyms soon. I for one will be working to evolve a Glaceon.

There are also some new evolutions, so don’t trash your mid-tier pokémon just yet. Magmortar, Electivire, Tangrowth and Rhyperior mean you’ll have a use for all that extra candy.

Update your app and start draining that battery, Trainer! And don’t forget that we’ve got Niantic’s Ross Finman at our AR/VR Session in LA this Thursday. Drop by if you’re in the area.

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That weird nut Pokémon that showed up in Pokémon GO? It’s official now

Posted by | Gaming, niantic, pokemon, Pokémon Go, TC | No Comments

This past Saturday, something pretty weird happened in Pokémon GO: Immediately after the monthly “Community Day” event came to a close, a strange, new, never-before-seen Pokémon showed up. And by “showed up,” I mean it was everywhere. Around the globe, this thing was spawning every few feet. A grey blob with a hex nut for a head; it wasn’t like anything that anyone had seen in-game before.

It looked like this:

Weirder yet: No one could actually catch it. If you managed to get it to stay in a Pokéball, it would always turn into something else (in most cases, it turned into a Ditto). Just a few hours later, it was mostly gone.

Was it just a glitch? Many players assumed that Niantic put this thing in as a placeholder and a glitch brought it into public view. Or did they really just drop an entirely new Pokémon into the game out of nowhere?

Three days later, we’ve got an answer: It’s not a glitch.

This video just popped up on the official Pokémon YouTube channel, shining a bit of light on what’s going on:

In short: Its name is Meltan, and it’s an upcoming Mythical Pokémon. It all seems to be a big publicity tie-in with the upcoming Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! titles that’ll launch on the Switch next month. Based on the limited info we have so far, it seems like to get a Meltan in the new games, you’ll have to catch him in Pokémon GO.

This whole stunt was pretty damned clever. Thanks to special, limited-time spawns, Pokémon GO’s Community Day events are when just about anyone who still plays the game will be actively looking at their screen. By sneaking Meltan in there for a bit at the end, they pretty much guaranteed a wave of “WTF?” would roll around the world. All for a little grey blob with a nut on his head.

As for how to catch an actual Meltan rather than a Ditto-lookalike: that’s still a mystery. Catching Mythical Pokémon in GO thus far has involved “Special Research” quests — a series of tasks that take a few days or weeks of play to complete. We might be looking at another one of those here.

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Twitch will livestream Pokémon TV series and movies, while viewers ‘catch’ badges

Posted by | Gaming, Media, pokemon, streaming, television, tv, Twitch | No Comments

Twitch has teamed up with The Pokémon Company to allow viewers to binge watch the Pokémon: The Series TV show and related movies on its site, and “catch” Pokémon badges along the way. While the former is one of Twitch’s many retro binge watch fests – it’s previously streamed old shows like Bob Ross, Julia Child, Mister Rogers, SNL, and most recently, Knight Rider – the interactive feature it’s debuting is something new.

According to the company, Twitch will launch its own Pokémon extension to accompany the broadcast. This overlay, called “Twitch Presents: Pokémon Badge Collector,” will encourage viewers to collect Pokémon badges that appear on the screen for points, which places them on a leaderboard.

This is only the second time Twitch has added an interactive element like this to one of its viewing events, and its addition could see users watching for longer periods of time, as a result. The first was a “watch and win” extension during a Doctor Who broadcast, but it was different as it focused on collecting contest entries.

Twitch also notes this will be the longest viewing event it’s ever held.

The binge will see 16 movies and 19 TV seasons with 932 episodes streamed across Twitch’s network, starting on August 27, 2018, and spanning until 2019. This will kick off with the first season, Pokémon: Indigo League at 10 AM PDT on the 27ths for audiences in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Latin America, and Australia. The content will air on TwitchPresents and on its companion channels in French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Brazilian Portuguese.

“The Twitch community has a passion for Pokémon based on the warm embrace the series received when we celebrated the brand’s 20th anniversary, as well as the cultural milestone that was set when over a hundred thousand Twitch members played Pokémon together,” said Jane Weedon, Director of Business Development at Twitch, in a statement about the launch.

The viewing event comes at a time when reports claim Twitch is going after a wider audience than just gamers. The company has been wooing creatives like vloggers, cooks, artists, and others to come to its site, instead of only broadcasting on YouTube. And it’s been airing non-esports content through marathon events like this new one with Pokémon. According to Bloomberg, TV show livestreams are one of the two fastest-growing genres on the site, the other being “IRL” (in real life) content.

The Pokémon viewing event, in particular, is aimed at a younger audience who may not have the level of nostalgia for the classic TV shows Twitch previously aired. Instead, Twitch says the livestream is appropriate for fans 13 and up – which means it could attract those whose first real exposure to Pokémon was the mobile game that went viral following its launch in 2016.

The dates and times of the Pokémon series and movies will be on Twitch Presents. The binge fest won’t include newer series, like the Sun & Moon or Sun & Moon Ultra Adventures, however.

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Pokémon GO is getting PvP by the end of the year

Posted by | Gaming, Mobile, niantic, Nintendo, pokemon, Pokémon Go | No Comments

As popular as Pokémon GO is, it has always been missing one major feature: pitting your Pokémon directly against another trainer’s. Strange, since that was the entire basis of the franchise to begin with! But the mobile game will at last get this much-requested feature by the end of the year, the company told Polish news site Gram.

After a record-shattering debut and then a long slump as players perceived the game’s shallowness and abandoned it en masse, Pokémon GO is having something of a renaissance. Improved gym and social mechanics, better reliability and, of course, a host of new ‘mon have brought players back, and it seems that features will continue to be rolled out.

What exactly the PvP mode will consist of is not clear. Chances are it will require players to be near each other, like the trading function. Though it is likely to produce some kind of reward, it likely will be limited in some other way, via a stardust or candy cost, to prevent people gaming the system.

Niantic’s Anne Beuttenmüller, in her interview with Gram, didn’t get specific. She was more interested in talking about the upcoming Ingress Prime, a sort of relaunch of the game on which Pokémon GO is essentially based; that will also be released toward the end of the year.

As for the highly anticipated Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, which will no doubt involve people waving their phones around and uttering magic nonsense in full view of the public, her lips were sealed. It too will release around the end of the year! It’s going to be a busy holiday season.

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Niantic explains how and why it bans players in Pokémon GO

Posted by | Gaming, niantic, pokemon, Pokémon Go, TC | No Comments

Getting banned for cheating is nothing new in Pokémon GO. There’ve been big ol’ ban waves every few weeks for ages now.

The policies have never been totally set in stone, however — at least not publicly. Like many of the game’s mechanics, the player base has had to share info amongst themselves to figure out the offenses and their relative punishments, from slaps on the wrist to lifetime bans.

At long last, Niantic has published a proper “Three-Strike Discipline Policy.”

As the name implies, most infractions will be handled on a three-strike system. Niantic notes, however, that “some misbehaviors” (they leave that one pretty open-ended) will work out to an instant perma ban.

So what’s worthy of a strike? Spoofing (making the game think you’re somewhere you’re not), using modified Pokémon GO clients or bots or doing something that accesses Pokémon GO’s backend in an unauthorized way.

On the first strike, you’ll get a warning message. You’ll still be able to play, technically, but you won’t see anything even remotely rare for seven days.

On the second strike, they’ll close your account for a month.

On the third strike, the account is banned for good.

And if you think you got stuck in the crosshairs by accident? Niantic has an appeal process for that.

It’s worth noting that these punishments aren’t really new; bans of all variety have been happening since shortly after the game’s release. This is just the first time Niantic has really put the hows-and-whys in stone.

Niantic could probably go a few steps further in their clarifications here, though, as plenty of players are still confused as to whether or not they’re breaking the rules.

Will they get in trouble for using third-party software (like an automated IV calculator) that doesn’t modify the client or access Niantic’s backend but does provide the player with more info? What about players using third-party versions of the Go Plus hardware, like the Go-tcha? That thing pretty much automates catching/spinning as you walk around… but it’s also been sold in retail stores for years now, likely to many players who’ve never considered that this thing they bought in their local GameStop might not be allowed.

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Hands-on with Nintendo’s Poké Ball Plus

Posted by | e3 2018, Gaming, Nintendo, Poké Ball Plus, pokemon, TC | No Comments

Nintendo doesn’t come out with a ton of hardware in-between system launches, but the peripherals it does come out with have a history of being pretty quality. That being said, the Poké Ball Plus may be the nicest little game-specific system accessory Nintendo has sold yet.

At Nintendo’s big, honking E3 booth I had a chance to go hands-on with the little golf-ball sized device. Nintendo was not allowing us to take video or pictures of it during use, but rest assured, this is exactly what it looks like in real life.

For what should by all means be a gimmicky little device, Nintendo put a thoughtful amount of engineering into the little ball, which was surprisingly fun to play the new titles with and seemed to offer a lot more than nostalgia for prospective owners.

Build-wise this thing feels nice and hefty with an experience that feels a bit more immersive than using a Joy-Con because you are holding a little ball rather than flicking a controller. Additionally, there are some lights on the joystick/trigger that light up to showcase when you’ve caught a Pokémon or are housing one. You can charge the Poké Ball Plus via USB-C and you’ll get about six hours charge on it, the company tells us.

You can navigate your character through the game with the joy-stick and push it in to make selections. When it comes to actually capturing Pokémon that you encounter, you can sort of flick the little ball — there’s a strap and a little ring to ensure the ball doesn’t go flying.

Will this be something that drastically improves your experience playing the varieties of Pokemon: Let’s Go? No, but you probably won’t feel like an idiot for spending extra money on something your system’s Joy-Cons can already do if more fun is an acceptable system spec.

It’s cool, it’s cute and tiny and, similar to the Pokémon GO Plus wristband, you’ll be able to connect this to your phone and catch the little creatures on-the-go, so you are getting some added functionality if you’ve bought into Niantic’s Pokémon world on mobile, as well.

Other features beyond being able to house a Pokémon that you have captured on the move is that you can actually shake the device and hear the sound of the particular Pokémon you currently have captured. As far as fun little features go, this has a lot to offer fans.

We don’t have an official price for the accessory itself, but Nintendo did reveal today that it will be included with a $100 bundle with a copy of Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu or Eevee. You’ll also get the mythical Pokémon Mew with your Poké Ball Plus.

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