Despite praise for Apple Vision Pro, 'Pokemon Go' dev evolves into smaller company
Niantic, the game developer behind the popular augmented reality title 'Pokemon Go', is moving ahead with major layoffs even as the company co-founder and CEO calls out Apple Vision Pro for laying the groundwork for an even more robust AR future.
The founder and CEO of the company, John Hanke, recently published an email he originally sent to Niantic employees detailing the major organizational changes coming to the company. Those will include layoffs from across the company, an entire studio shutting down, and games not called Pokemon Go getting cancelled altogether.
Hanke says the changes are meant to narrow the company's focus moving forward, which will primarily mean focusing most of its efforts on its Pokemon game. Niantic will still be developing a few other titles based on popular franchises, including Pikmin Bloom and Monster Hunter Now, as well.
The change at Niantic means 230 employees are being let go, and the company is also shutting down its studio based out of Los Angeles, California. The company will be shutting down NBA All World in the near future, and production is stopping on Marvel: World of Heroes.
With the exception of Pokemon Go, which remains remarkably popular despite coming up on its seventh birthday soon, the AR games market has not found a solid foothold. Even the tech giant Microsoft has abandoned support for Minecraft Earth, despite the popularity of Minecraft and positive enough reviews.
Hanke says the future is still bright, especially with augmented reality hardware. Specifically, he calls out both Meta's Quest Pro and Apple's Vision Pro mixed reality headsets as beacons for the future. He also notes these devices are an "intermediate stepping stone" to what he says will be "true outdoor AR devices."
Niantic had a surge in revenue during the COVID pandemic, but Hanke says profits have settled back to pre-COVID times, which is part of the reason the company is downsizing. Moving forward, Niantic's top priority appears to be keeping Pokemon Go the top AR game in the market for the foreseeable future.
Apple sees a future for gaming on the Vision Pro headset, showcasing several titles available via Apple Arcade in its demonstration at the latest Worldwide Developers Conference. But, out of many of the demonstrated use cases, walking around out in the world wearing a Vision Pro to play Pokemon Go was not one of them.
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