Pokémon Go-maker Niantic says being in the virtual world always not healthy for mind and body | Exclusive – The Financial Express

Pokémon Go-maker Niantic says being in the virtual world always not healthy for mind and body | Exclusive – The Financial Express

The Financial Express
Niantic may be best known for making the augmented reality mobile games Ingress and Pokémon Go, but it’s more than just another mobile game developing company. If it were not for Niantic, who knows, maybe there won’t be a Google Earth. But even more importantly, if it were not for Niantic, AR probably won’t be as mainstream and accessible as it is today.
“In the beginning, digital games would mean playing games while sitting on your couch or sofa and using your TV as a gaming console,” Archit Bhargava, Director, Worldwide Product Marketing at Niantic, Inc tells FE, adding that “with Pokémon Go, which we launched in 2016, I think we showed people that you could play these [AR] games while you get out and explore and it can still be as fun as the games you thought.”
FE: With the onset of the pandemic, what changes have you seen in the behavioural pattern of the gaming audience?
Bhargava: COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns disrupted people’s lives. Whether going out or even going for something as simple as a walk, they could not do things they could normally do, especially in 2020. In 2021, the situation improved, especially in the US and Europe. In these areas, people started walking and going out by following the local governments’ guidance.
While most of the people in the world are used to staying home after these two years, we also realised some people would like to go out again. Niantic and its game titles have monthly Community Day, which is the day that we encourage our players to go outside and play with others while adhering to the local guidelines. We also had Pokémon Go’s real events, such as Safari Zone and Go Fest in Europe. Those are the occasions you go out and play games with other players, while exploring the area. Those events had thousands of players. While Niantic encouraged people to get out to explore the area with others, we were happy to see many people enjoying our real events as well. 
FE: What are the core fundamentals of Niantic games? What kind of cognitive processes go into each game layout?
Bhargava: Niantic is quintessentially about using AR and location technology to encourage and excite people with opportunities to go out, explore, and connect with the world. Every Niantic game has its uniqueness, yet the genesis lies in this concept. Niantic also believes that reflecting and showcasing the real world is essential. We believe that being in the virtual world always is not healthy for both mind and body. Therefore, we believe bringing the amazing aspects of the virtual world to the real world will make our daily lives more enjoyable. For example, Ingress allows players to walk through various locations in the real world to save the world and work with their faction members to grow their field on the earth.
In the case of Pokémon Go, the Pokémon world is superimposed on the real world, with locations such as PokéStops or Pokémon Gyms being the points of interest. We want people to explore the real world as they meet Pokémon, access locations, and encounter new things and things they may have overlooked. Similarly, Pikmin Bloom also brings an amalgamation of virtual and real-life experiences. We designed with the focus that people can enjoy walking and exploring in real life and connect with others.
FE: How has the safety component been incorporated in the games and do any of your games have any medical endorsements?
Bhargava: We often consider endorsing health benefits, but we do not do so because of rules and regulations in the US and other countries, such as pharmaceutical laws and promotions. Several research papers published on Pokémon Go and other Niantic games are readily available, and health studies published worldwide support one of our key goals.
FE: How do you measure your success metrics?
Bhargava: Our primary focus is on the number of active users; Pikmin Bloom and other Niantic games are designed to be enjoyable without charging. The items needed in the game can be obtained by walking, for example. We have designed our games so that you can use your money when you want to level up or grow faster.
This is not limited to games but creating a service that people enjoy every day is not an easy task. In Niantic’s case, this entails enhancing the maps that link to the actual world in addition to the game app itself. This is the reason why Niantic is making every effort to deliver a more enjoyable experience to our players in India.
FE: Talk about your India story, what are the kind of investments you’re making here?
Bhargava: As a technology-strong country, India will be one of the countries to drive our player base. As the world’s leading Augmented Reality (AR) company, we believe that India will continue to drive our player base. With the help of our Lightship platform, Indian developers also have the potential to create their augmented reality games. With these capabilities in mind, Niantic has made strategic investments to strengthen its operations and expand its footprint in the Indian market. For example, in recent months, we have added many new PokéStops and Gyms to the game, catering to the increasing engagement from the Indian consumer. It is a testament to our ongoing efforts to provide new and better experiences.
In addition, we have also launched several on-ground activities that reflect the fundamentals of the game. We have a Community Day monthly series where we hold events across several cities in India, including Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi, Chennai, Pune, and Thiruvananthapuram, amongst others. 
FE: What’s Niantic’s broader take on AR, do you think we are still in the early stages of an AR revolution?
Bhargava: Globally, many of the biggest companies on the planet are investing in AR technologies. There’s much context about this potentially being the next paradigm shift in computing. I think we are still in the early stage. For us, augmented reality (AR) shouldn’t seem forced into a gaming environment. It must appear to be improving the gaming experience.

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