‘Pokemon Go’ creator returns to ‘real world’ recipe for NBA game

'Pokemon Go' took players from their living rooms to the streets and parks, something the game's creator hopes to repeat with 'NBA.

‘Pokemon Go’ took players from their living rooms to the streets and parks, something the game’s creator hopes to repeat with ‘NBA All-World’.

Seven years ago, the mobile game “Pokemon Go” took the world by storm, and now its creators are trying to bring the same “real world” appeal to their new basketball game.

While “Pokemon Go” players were guided by their cellphones to real-world locations to collect magical creatures, “NBA All-World” allows players to challenge each other to street games.

John Hanke, head of Niantic, which produces both games, points out that, as with Pokemon, NBA players will only need a mobile phone – no expensive VR headsets or glasses.

He’s promoting this hybrid-style game as a “real-life metaverse,” setting it apart from the experience promoted by Microsoft and other users sitting at home with masks strapped to their faces.

“I think it’s important to support what we as human beings do in the real world, like going to a restaurant, meeting friends and not staying at home,” he told AFP in an interview.

“Putting on a VR headset alone, to me, is a very lonely and scary future. I hope humanity doesn’t go in that direction.”

In “NBA All-World,” released this week in France and worldwide next Tuesday, players choose their favorite NBA star as an avatar and meet others to play on the street.

The social aspect of gaming, Hanke said, made cell phones the perfect gaming device.

“It’s mobile, it’s cheap, and almost everyone has it,” he said.

'Pokemon Go' maker Niantic's John Hanke calls the world of virtual reality headset gaming a 'scary future'

‘Pokemon Go’ maker Niantic’s John Hanke calls the world of virtual reality headset gaming a ‘scary future’

Buying a brand

Niantic hopes to make money through microtransactions — players can spend small amounts on virtual items that allow them to move faster in the game, or customize their avatars with sneakers from brands like Adidas or Puma.

Hanke admits that the success of “Pokemon Go” has helped Niantic land high-level corporate partners.

“The success of ‘Pokémon Go’ certainly helps us,” he said.

Now a cultural phenomenon with more than a billion downloads, “Pokemon Go” has generated roughly $1 billion a year since its launch in July 2016, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower.

But Niantic hasn’t been able to produce another hit that even comes close to that level.

And it had notable flops.

It launched “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” in 2019, only to shut it down in January last year due to lack of interest.

Like many other firms in the technology sector, Niantic made significant downsizing last year, laying off eight percent of its workforce and halting four video game projects.

With that in mind, Hanke downplays any suggestion that his latest game could reach the level of success of Pokemon.

“Pokémon Go, as the very first game of its kind, I think surprised the world,” said the head of Niantic.

“Maybe the next game we make in the future will have the same kind of instant viral success, but that’s probably not a realistic expectation because it’s a bit of an unusual case.”

© 2023 AFP

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