India is an important market for AR games, says maker of Pokémon Go

Niantic Inc., better known for its augmented reality games and apps, is one of the principal promoters ensuring that the virtual world connects to the physical one

Updated - November 16, 2022 12:57 pm IST

Published - November 08, 2022 11:28 am IST

Priscilla Campillo, Manager, Emerging Markets & Strategic Partnerships at Niantic, Inc.

Priscilla Campillo, Manager, Emerging Markets & Strategic Partnerships at Niantic, Inc. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

With plans to incorporate the real world in its technology, Niantic Inc. has come up with Lightship, a platform for developers to create their own reality games. The company recently released updates for its popular AR game Pokémon Go. These included a global map refresh and the addition of more Pokémon.

In an exclusive interaction with The Hindu, Priscilla Campillo, Manager, Emerging Markets & Strategic Partnerships at Niantic, Inc. talked about the company’s plans for India, the future of AR gaming and the impact of 5G rollout.

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Edited excerpts from the interview below:

Please tell us about the new games being launched by Niantic in the coming days. Are there any titles in mind for India?

Priscilla Campillo: When talking about game launches that are coming in the next couple of months, we are definitely thinking about India. Last year we launched Pikmin Bloom that is available in India and we have plans to fully launch games like the NBA All-World, which is also an AR game. We have also announced Marvel World of Heroes which will be also launching soon, and India will definitely be part of this rollout.

We also have a game called Peridot, which is an original IP, and there are more titles in the pipeline. Next year is going to be a very big year, not only for Niantic but also for the Indian market.

How large is the AR gaming market in India, and is it expanding?

PC: We see India as one of the fastest growing markets for both our existing and our upcoming games as well as our technology because we believe that India will continue to drive our player base with the help of our platform. Indian developers have huge potential to create their own reality games, which is something that Niantic is offering today. 

Last year we announced our platform called Lightship, which is our next step towards a planet scale augmented reality platform for the current and new generation of developers. It helps developers realistically build augmented reality experiences, is available in India and definitely, we think it’s also a great opportunity for developers.

Do you see Metaverse-based games as a threat to AR games?

PC: Much of the Metaverse conversation really paints a future where we’re sitting at our desks from our basements as the real world is chaotic. Niantic sees this very differently because we imagine a future where billions of people will be able to create experiences in the real world. Outside. 

We imagine a real world metaverse where players or users will be able to interact with layers of the world, making the real world more magical, fun, informative and educational.

So, I don’t see Metaverse as a competition, I see this as two very different things that can definitely co-exist.

How do you see Niantic competing against online multiplayer games like PUBG, Call of Duty and others?

PC: I definitely don’t see them as competition. They’re completely different experiences, games and platforms.

It is a very exciting time for a lot of games, including these titles, and they will be more and more present in our daily lives. But I see that Niantic games are very unique. Our technology is built thinking about people going outside and exploring and meeting new people in real life.

Since India is a difficult market to monetise in terms of subscriptions and in-app purchases, how does Niantic plan to tackle this?

PC: Our initial approach is to make our game more available with improvements. We added 5,00,000 PokéStops, which are points of interest to interact with our games in India. We have increased engagement from the Indian consumer. We’re also planning the rollout of Campfire, which is a platform integrated in our games, that can help players connect easily and organise meetups, raids and and local events in their communities. The new Pokémon and the content are available for Indian players as well as on-the-ground activations. We have also been working with local communities and player communities in India to host monthly community days.

We are also excited to start being more inclusive in terms of working on content that is more relevant to Indian players.

A file photo of the Pokémon Go logo

A file photo of the Pokémon Go logo | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Do you plan to expand the places that you’re going to be holding these events in the future? 

PC: We understand that India is such a huge country and it is definitely a challenge for us to tap into all of the communities at any given time. We obviously need to keep investing, adding resources to the local ground, but it is definitely a plan that we have to to increase these events and increase support for our local communities.

How do you see the rollout of 5G impacting the AR gaming market and how does Niantics plan to tap into it?

PC: Interactive content really has the power to transform enterprises and really deliver consumer experiences that will shape the gaming landscape for the years to come. The backbone of this is really 5G and Cloud computing. 

Last year we launched a demo called Urban Legends, which is a multiplayer experience offering consumers a glimpse into the future with AR and 5G.

We have partnered with top telcos in the world, in America, in Europe and Asia as well to kind of show 5G ultra low latency and high, high bandwidth capabilities to deliver a very cool experience that is highly immersive and social.

So there is definitely a huge intersection between augmented reality to showcase the capabilities of 5G. And I do know that India is kind of entering that territory and we hope that we can bring some of these experiences here.

AR games have been found to distract users in the past, leading to accidents. How does Niantic plan to resolve these problems in densely populated areas of India?

PC: Niantic has several layers of safety reminders built into games, including Pokémon GO, which players see on start-up and during gameplay, which they must acknowledge to continue. These reminders ask players to be alert and stay aware of their surroundings and not enter dangerous areas while playing. 

We also regularly remind players to follow guidance from local health authorities when playing, notify them of local weather warnings, and remind them to be courteous to their local communities during group play. If the game detects that a player might be driving, game functionality is disabled until the player confirms that they are a passenger in the vehicle.

Niantic has come under the scanner for privacy concerns. How have these been resolved?

PC: We take privacy concerns very seriously and are fortunate to have a great team that seeks to address this in a thoughtful way that prioritises the user. We’ve developed a privacy policy that reflects this. Niantic only retains location information for the time necessary to operate the game and plan for in-game resources - for example, PokéStops within Pokémon GO. Niantic does not sell any user information to third parties.

Like many mobile apps and services, when you sign up for our games, personal data is shared voluntarily.

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