Niantic, the creator behind Pokémon Go, plans to take on META’s vision of the metaverse armed with a new round of funding of $300 million that gives the expansion a valuation of $9 billion. However, it’s not clear that Niantic really intends to do anything new, which leads one to think that “the metaverse” may just be another empty buzzword.
US-based augmented reality (AR) company Niantic was founded in 2010. It now plans to make a new mark on the fledgling iteration of the next-generation internet by essentially doing what it’s been doing for years: developing AR technology. .
“We are building a future where the real world is layered with digital creations, entertainment and information, making it more magical, fun and informative,” says John Hanke, Niantic founder and CEO. Niantic’s best-known achievement was the 2016 Pokémon Go AR game, developed in collaboration with Nintendo, in which players could hunt virtual Pokémon in the real world using networked devices such as phones.
Niantic’s new “real world metaverse” will be powered in part by Niantic’s recently released Lightship platform, which allows developers to create their own AR creations.
The Pokémon Go developer isn’t the only one jumping on the metaverse bandwagon.
Facebook, which renamed itself Meta in November to highlight its focus on the metaverse, has so far made no fundamental changes to its business model other than creating a new parent company for its different platforms.
“Over the next few years, I expect people to shift from seeing us primarily as a social media company to seeing us as a metaverse company,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg told The Verge in July. “In many ways, the metaverse is the pinnacle of social technology.”
Zuck’s embarrassing presentation laying out his vision for Meta essentially came down to the continued development of Facebook Workrooms, its virtual reality (VR) and AR meeting platform, and its other services.
Niantic’s Hanke, for his part, referred to the Metaverse, which relies heavily on VR headsets and other tech that keeps people at home, as a “dystopian nightmare,” saying he’d rather see solutions that encourage people to experience reality. world: rather like its most successful piece of technology already does.
Microsoft’s recent announcement that it was building its own metaverse solutions seemed to be an extension of its Teams platform.
Fortnite developer Epic has been hailed as a market leader in the metaverse due to its ability to combine gameplay experiences with in-game concerts and promotional events. However, it’s not uncommon for online games to host huge events, though not before on the scale of epics.
Virtual world developer Improbable has recently rebranded itself as a metaverse evangelist, unsurprisingly given its business model.
So what is really going on here?
Does the metaverse make no sense?
GlobalData’s social media research describes the metaverse as a “virtual world where users share experiences and interact in real time within simulated scenarios.”
Given that description, it makes sense that AR developer Niantic would join. Still, the developer of Pokémon GO and other companies dabbling in the metaverse by essentially doing business as usual begs the question: is the metaverse just an empty buzzword?
Alex Graves, CEO of flexible work company Silicon Reef, disagrees with that idea. He tells Verdict that the scale of the investments in the metaverse means that to say it’s just an empty phrase would mean one “is woefully underestimating it”.
With companies like Meta and Microsoft investing billions of dollars and tens of thousands of employees to build their version of the digital realm, he thinks there’s no denying that the metaverse will catch on.
“With the weight of these giants behind them, anyone wondering if it’s going to catch on is like those who in the mid-’90s thought the Internet was lightning,” says Graves.
To him, that also explains why everyone from non-fungible token startups to semiconductor companies like Nvidia are looking for a slice of the metaverse pie.
“[It’s the future. Ignoring it would be a mistake on a grand scale,” says Graves. “Yes, you will have problems. All technologies do. But it’s here and no one can stop it.”
Gary Knight, CEO of social audio startup Wolf, agrees that the metaverse is teeming with business opportunities. However, he believes there are more cynical reasons why some companies have joined the hype.
“With Meta only talking about a $10 billion project, suddenly there is a lot of focus on the metaverse, and as such there will be great opportunities for organizations that can find a place in the metaverse ecosystem,” Knight tells Verdict. “Applying the metaverse tag will help many organizations gain awareness and potential success/funding etc.”
Another reason behind the explosion of metaverse companies is that there are still no real standards for it, Rupantar Guha, principal analyst at GlobalData’s thematic research team, tells Verdict.
“Everyone is trying to make their experience fit the metaverse or develop something that represents it, but there’s no standard for anything right now,” he says, adding that the lack of definition means most companies can do let the metaverse be what they want. to be
Guha believes that market watchers will have to wait a while before there is a clear definition of what is and what is not a metaverse technology.
“These are very, very early stages,” he says. “There is a long way to go, like five years, six years, seven years. There is no certainty when we will see a true metaverse in its most real form and understand what the underlying technologies and underlying practices will be.”
Pokemon Go Developer’s Metaverse Opportunity
Guha, however, believes that Niantic has a good chance to make its mark in the metaverse, whatever that may be.
“Niantic is one of the companies we look at regularly because it has made a name for itself in the world of augmented reality gaming,” he explains. “Pokémon Go came out in 2016 and is still the most popular name in AR overall. So Niantic is definitely well positioned to benefit from being a metaverse business.”
The Pokémon Go developer’s metaverse push comes in the midst of a hectic year for the company. In 2021 alone, it acquired developer experience platform Hoss Technologies, 3D scanning mobile app Scaniverse, and gaming community Mayhem Interactive, according to GlobalData’s Technology Intelligence Center.
Investor Coute seems to agree, having backed the new $300 million round of the scale.
“Niantic is building a platform for AR based on a 3D world map that we believe will play a critical role in the next transition of computing,” said Matt Mazzeo, general partner at Coatue. “We are excited to partner with Niantic as we see this infrastructure supporting a metaverse for the real world and helping power the next evolution of the Internet.”