Niantic Inc., the game developer behind “Pokemon GO” that helped push augmented reality tech into the mainstream, has received a $300 million investment from Coature, valuating the company at $9 billion.
With that funding, the company intends to build what it calls a “Real-World Metaverse,” a platform for AR based on a 3D map of the world.
The announcement comes on the heels of Facebook changing its parent company name to Meta and indicating its intentions to invest more heavily in the virtual reality space. But Niantic’s CEO and founder John Hanke has recently said that the idea of a full metaverse — with everyone buried in VR headsets away from the real world in the vein of “Ready Player One” — is a “dystopian nightmare.” Rather, the company’s vision with AR technology is to use tech to bring people closer to the real world.
“We’re building a future where the real world is overlaid with digital creations, entertainment and information, making it more magical, fun and informative,” Hanke said in a statement Tuesday. “This will take a significant investment of talent, technology and imagination, and we’re thrilled that Coatue is on this journey with us.”
“Niantic is building a platform for AR based on a 3D map of the world that we believe will play a critical role in the next transition in computing,” Matt Mazzeo, a general partner at Coatue, said in a statement. “We are excited to partner with Niantic because we see this infrastructure supporting a metaverse for the real world and helping to power the next evolution of the internet.”
Niantic will use the funds to invest in current games and new apps, expand the Lightship developer platform and build out its vision for the Real-World Metaverse.
Earlier this month, Niantic launched the Lightship platform, enabling developers across the world to use augmented reality and the Real-World Metaverse. The Lightship Platform is the foundation for Niantic’s own products, including “Ingress Prime” and “Pokémon GO.”
Launch partners for the Lightship platform included Coachella, Historic Royal Palaces, Lifull, the PGA of America, Science Museum Group, Shueisha, SoftBank, the artist JR and Superblue, TRIPP, Universal Pictures and Warner Music Group. Niantic also announced Niantic Ventures, a $20 million fund to help identify and fund the AR leaders of tomorrow.
Games like “Pokemon GO” and the newly launched “Pikmin Bloom” in collaboration with Nintendo are both smartphone apps built around walking and exploring places in the real world. But they’ve each faced their own criticisms and problems for those who have limited mobility, and Niantic had worked to adjust “Pokemon GO” during the pandemic when people were stuck inside their houses to better accommodate a wider swath of players. The company boasts that players have walked more than 10.9 billion miles while using its apps.