After the “Pokémon Go” phenomenon, Niantic is betting on basketball: the American publisher of immersive video games, specializing in augmented reality on smartphones, is launching a title in partnership with the NBA, reinforcing its vision of a “metaverse ” available to all. .
Founded in 2010, Niantic wants to offer the possibility of everyday travel in the universe by integrating virtual elements in the real world thanks to augmented reality. As in “Pokémon Go,” its flagship game launched in 2016, where players hunt creatures they can visualize both in their living room and in a park outside.
For this, there is no need for a virtual reality (VR) headset, just a smartphone screen is enough.
The “perfect” instrument to materialize the vision of a “real-world metaverse”, with a social and accessible dimension, “as opposed to the metaverse that exists only in a 3D browser”, John Hanke, the head of Niantic, told AFP.
“It’s important to support what we do in the real world as human beings, like going out, going to restaurants, meeting our friends. Putting on a VR (headset) and being alone, for me, that’s a very lonely thing. and the future fearful. I hope mankind will not go this way.”
In “NBA All-World”, each player, through his avatar, must walk the streets to meet virtual players, whether NBA stars like Lebron James or other users, and challenge them to a duel in 1 against 1 or 3 point shots. .
– Microtransactions –
Niantic’s business model is based on micro-transactions: the games are free, but players can, with a dedicated currency, buy virtual items that allow them to progress faster or customize their avatar with “sneakers” brands like Adidas or Puma, partners of “NBA All the World”.
Beyond the attractiveness of the North American Basketball League, one of the most watched sports and media organizations in the world, “the success of +Pokémon Go+ certainly also helps us” to attract brands “to work with us”, adds John Hanke .
Now a cultural phenomenon with over a billion downloads, “Pokémon Go” has generated an average of $1 billion a year since its launch in July 2016, according to Sensor Tower estimates.
But Niantic has since been unable to replicate that success, like the “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” fiasco. Launched in 2019, the game was stopped in January 2022, due to lack of audience.
Worse, due to the “economic turmoil” that has hit the tech sector globally, Niantic announced in April an 8% reduction in its workforce and the discontinuation of four video game projects to focus on its “priorities”.
“+Pokémon Go+, as the first game of its kind, I think surprised the world”, underlines the head of Niantic.
“Maybe another game we make in the future will have the same kind of instant viral success, but that’s probably not a realistic expectation because it’s kind of an unusual scenario.”
The next development prospect for its model is the growth of the 5G mobile network, while Niantic is also increasing partnerships with major telecommunications operators such as the American Verizon.
“5G will strengthen public gaming, obviously by facilitating access to content on the phone, with richer graphics”, underlines John Hnake, evaluating the “technical advantages” offered by the last generation mobile network.
“We have big events like Pokémon Go Fest,” whose last edition was in Berlin in August, “where we concentrate 30,000 to 50,000 people in a small area. 5G is better to support that.”