The metaverse is the talk of Silicon Valley and beyond thanks in part to the company formerly known as Facebook’s rebranding. Now, the dollars are starting to follow the buzz.
Niantic, a San Francisco-based purveyor of augmented reality games like Pokémon Go, just raised $300 million at a $9-billion valuation, accelerating plans to put its own stamp on the metaverse.
A Better Meta
Niantic is fronted by former Google exec John Hanke and was spun off from the web giant in 2015. Partnering with Nintendo, Niantic released Pokémon Go in 2016, the first game to successfully incorporate augmented reality (and get gamers outside for a breath of fresh air).
Pokémon Go is still a colossal hit, raking in over $1 billion in 2020 and on track to outpace that total this year, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower. And with fresh funding, Niantic plans to bring its vision for the “Real-World Metaverse” to life:
- The company pictures a very different metaverse than people strapped to VR headsets — a scene Hanke has called a “dystopian nightmare” — instead hoping to create a virtual world that gets users to interact with the real things around them.
- As part of its bid to extol the virtues of AR over VR, Niantic unveiled its Lightship AR Developer Kit (ARDK) this month, which provides free-to-use tools for augmented reality developers, and has already been tapped by companies like Coachella and Universal Pictures to design their AR experiences.
Beyond Gaming: “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,” said Matt Mazzeo of Coatue, the hedge fund behind Niantic’s $300 million raise. He said Coatue foresees Niantic “helping to power the next evolution of the internet,” which sounds a lot harder than finding Pikachu.