Pokemon Hunt Leads To Glory For Google-born Niantic

Pokemon Hunt Leads To Glory For Google-born Niantic

\?gaming ocBorn in Goog?e's shadow, Niantic strode into the s?otlight with a mo?ile internet spin on hunting Pokemon but c?n the obsession with the game lead to long-t?rm financial succes??

Niantic founder and chief exec?tive John Hanke has told a story of naming the ?ompany after a whaling ship abandoned in San Francisco Harbor ?y crew memb?rs who rushed off to seek fortunes during t?e famed Gold Rush.

The ship was run aground and converted into a store.

Industry tr?cker Sensor Tower estimated that Pokemon Go generated more than $200 million in ?evenue during the month after its rel?ase in early July ?Jim Watson (AFP/File)

The notion of such long-for?otten wrecks prompted Hanke six years ago to use the name Niant?c to christen a quest to com?ine gaming, m?b?le mapping ?nd au?mente? reality to playfully reveal virtual things hidden in the real world.

Niantic was a ?ide-project for Hanke at Google, ?hich had bought the entrepreneur's startup Keyhole in 2004 and tu?ned it into the free mapp?ng service Google Earth.

Hanke spent years as a top executive in a Google "geo" division ??oducing widely used services such as Map? and ?treet View.

The gamer wanted to go beyond helping people navigate and h?ve fun with the ability for mobile devices to det?ct people's locations.

The entrepreneur toy?d with th? idea of launching a new startup, but instead kept Niant?c anchored in the Silicon Valley technology powerhouse.

"Staying at Google gave us the advantage of being able to tap into the data we have at (mapping division) Geo and the infrastructure of Google," Hanke was quoted as say?ng in a 2012 Inc. mag?zine article.

- Portals to Pokemon -

Th? Niantic ?roject fielded its first offering in 2011 ?n the form of a mobil? applic?tion called Fi?ldtri? that served ?p information about where smartphone us?rs were o? nea?by places of interest.

The follo?ing year, Nianti? launched a g?me cal?ed "Ingress," seen as a predec?ssor to "Pokemon Go."

Ingress, whi?h ha? been downloaded m?re than 15 m?lli?n times, also ?ses real world surroundings as the game board.

Instead of trying to catch cartoon monsters suc? as iconic Pik?chu b? targeting them with "Pokeballs", Ingress players battle for control of virtual portals.

Early ?ngress fans submitted pictures ?f places a? possible portals complete with satel?ite position metadata, es?entially crowdsourcing a rich geo-?ocation database that was put to use in Pokemon Go.

Wh?n Go?gle underwent a corporate restructuring last year to divvy its endeavors into arms of a freshly-?reated parent company called Alphabet, Niantic went independent.

Google did invest in Niantic, as did Nintend? and The Pokemon Com?any.

Niantic claims from 50 to 100 employees. The pr?vate company does not make its financial information public but som? analysts value it at more that $3 billion.

To justify such a valuation, Niantic will have to prove th?t Pokemon Go is a la?t?ng and profitable, not just anoth?r passing fling for notoriously fickle mobile game players.

Pokemon Go has shown it can make money. Industry tracker Sensor Tower est?mated that P?kemon Go generated more than $200 million in revenue during the month after its release ?n ear?y July.

The game is free, but playe?s can buy virt?al sup?lies suc? as ?okeBalls and lures to attract P?kemon.

Cafes, pubs, restaurants and other venues have taken to buying lures that tempt players to linger, and hopefully spend money, while waiting to catch Pokemon.

- Sponsors -

During a recent Venture Beat technology conference, Hanke said that the game was designed from the out?et for in-app purch?ses, and that ?evenue could also be made from sponsorships along the lines of w?at was done in Ingress.

Ingress has ?ortals hosted in comm??cial spots s?ch as shopping centers, and Pokemon Go launched in Japan with fast food giant McDonald's sp?nsoring in-game locations.

"We are talking to a bunch of other businesses that want to take advantage of that model for Pokemon Go in other parts of the world," Hanke said at the conference.

"It's promising."

A strong selling point for Pokemon Go sponsorships is that they get people swarming to places in a ?ay that typical advertising does not.

The power of Pokemon Go has, to some, become a bane. Parks and ot?er public venues ripe with PokeSto?s or "gyms" where cartoon cr?atures battle are at tim?s over run with p?ayers.

Authorities have taken to warning Pokemon Go players against venturing where it is dangerous, illega?, in poor taste, or they are sim?ly not wanted.

The game and its creator are a?ready in the sites of lawy?rs intent on suing to hold them accountable for trespassing or injur?es involving players.

The Washington-based Electronic Pri?acy Information Center ?as called for US regulators to inv?stigate whether Niantic is collecting too much inform?tion about ?la?ers and their whereabouts.

Industry tracker Sensor Tower estimated th?t Pokemon Go generated more than $200 million in revenue ?uring the month after its release in ?arly July ?Glenn Chapman (A?P/File)

? strong selling point for Pokemon Go sponsorsh?ps gaming os ?s th?t they get people swarming to places in a way that typical ?dvertising does not ?Oli Scarff (AFP/File)

Pokemon Go launched in Japan with fast food g?ant McDonald's sponsoring in-game lo?ations ?Toru Yamanaka (AFP/File)

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