During a recent interview with the Financial Times, Niantic confirmed plans to officially launch Pokémon GO in China – as part of a partnership with local games company NetEase. You can read several excerpts from the interview below:
“In 2016, our hair was blown back by the launch and the after-effects of the [Pokémon Go] launch,” John Hanke, Niantic’s chief executive, told the Financial Times in an interview.
“Revenues [in 2017] were not as high as they were in 2016 for the year but they were very strong.”
Pokémon Go’s sudden surge in popularity in the summer of 2016, when hundreds of millions of people downloaded the app, “really felt like a SpaceX launch”, he said, referring to Elon Musk’s rocket company.
But, Mr Hanke added, many of those users had stopped playing by the end of the year, leaving a smaller but “solid” community of Pokémon Go gamers who saw more regular updates and new features in 2017. These included real-world weather affecting the virtual gameplay.
“I would say 2017 was about firing the second stage and getting into a stable orbit,” he said, continuing the rocket metaphor. “2018 is about the journey to Mars.”
“We absolutely intend to bring our existing games into China,” Mr Hanke said, without disclosing a launch date. “Beyond that, there are opportunities to build games in China, both for China and for the world.”
Even before November’s fundraising, which valued the company at more than $1bn, Niantic was still “operating profitably” and had built a “very large nest egg” from Pokémon Go, Mr Hanke said.
“We continue to grow our cash reserves daily as we run the business,” he added, but the extra financing gives Niantic the ability to invest in its technology platform and make acquisitions.
The Harry Potter game is scheduled for release in the second half of 2018. Since Pokémon Go’s sometimes chaotic debut — during which servers were overloaded by demand, causing recurring service outages — Niantic is “so much better positioned” now, Mr Hanke said.
The lessons from Pokémon Go were not just technical, though.
“In terms of dealing with public locations, government policy, regulations and public reaction to people being out in the real world [playing its games], we have built up our expertise there,” he said, so that in-game hotspots that cause real-world problems can be removed or changed.
Apple’s ARkit technology was added to Pokémon Go in late December, allowing for more realistic positioning of its monsters on the street around the player and adding new gameplay features, such as having to sneak up on characters in order to catch them.
“We wished we had been able to do that at the very beginning of Pokémon Go,” Mr Hanke said. “That was always the vision but it wasn’t as convincing as we would have liked it to be — it didn’t really feel like they were part of your world.”
Source: Financial Times