Blog
June 3, 2020
Taking action

Niantic

Here’s the internal memo we shared with Niantics earlier this week on how we’re committing to change. #BlackLivesMatter


From John to Niantics

Niantics,

We are witnessing an unprecedented movement that opposes the systemic racism that limits opportunity and oppresses billions of people around the world. Like many of you, I have struggled with finding the right words, emotions, and actions to deal with the unease and unrest we’re seeing as a result of the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, and countless other Black people. As I said on Friday, the occasion demands that we rise up as an organization and marshall the power and resources that we have to be part of the solution. As a society, we can do better than we have in the past. As the past few days have made clear, we must do better.

The leadership team and I are aligned to do what we can to make the company a force for good in the world. At the same time, we want Niantic to be a source of stability and support in these troubled times. We face this heightened challenge on top of the physical and mental strain of our battle against COVID-19. We know that for many of you this has made an already stressful situation significantly worse. We want you to know that Niantic is here for you. So please reach out—to a colleague, HR manager, the leadership team—if you need support. If you’re in a position where you feel like you can’t stay in your place of residence, talk to your HRBP so we can help. The work in front of us to overcome these challenges is vast. The road is long. We want to help you take care of yourself so that you can be a force for good in the world.

So what can Niantic do? How can we use our platform to effect sustainable, long-term change? We already strive to make the world better by encouraging our players to explore the world around them and connect with their local community through physical interaction, to build a strong body and mind through exercise, and to build positive connections with fellow human beings through real-world social interaction. We think the next area where we can make a powerful, scalable impact is through the culture, ideas, and role models we help to create. To achieve that, we are going to fund projects from Black creators and will bring the best of those creations to a mass audience where they can shine a light on characters, story, and points of view that validate the lives and experiences of the Black community.

  • We’ll be donating Niantic proceeds from Pokémon GO Fest 2020 ticket sales, committing a minimum of $5 million. Half of the proceeds donated will be used to fund new projects from Black gaming and AR creators that can live on the Niantic platform, with the ultimate goal of increasing content that represents a more diverse view on the world. The other half will go to US nonprofit organizations that are helping local communities rebuild.

  • We’ll be donating $100,000 to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute and doing an employee match of up to $50,000. Black trans people continue to be killed at higher rates than Black cis people and non-Black LGBTQ+ people. In honor of the Black Lives Matter movement and of Pride Month, the Diversity and Inclusion team and the executive leadership team believe this donation is the right thing to do to support those who are most vulnerable to police brutality and other systems of oppression.

We’re also asking ourselves how we can take responsibility to better support our current and future Black and underrepresented minority employees as well as galvanize our non-Black employees to do their part in combating systemic racism and social injustice in both our industry and the community at large.

  • We’re developing new Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) training with a specific focus on allyship training. I cannot stress this point enough: it is not the responsibility of the Black community or our Black employees now to carry the burden of education. It is up to non-Black allies to educate ourselves and each other. We hope this diversity and inclusion training can help provide the tools and resources to make us all better allies. More details to come.

  • We’re upping our commitment to Treehouse, an organization dedicated to diversifying tech by making education more accessible. We are now committed to bringing on five UX/Designers and five QA analysts for apprenticeships, and hire 80-100% after apprenticeships.

  • We’re expanding our partnership with Gameheads a nonprofit that teaches kids how to develop games from beginning to end. This year, they are going fully virtual and taking the program global. We’ll be providing $25,000 in scholarships, sponsoring their annual showcase with $15,000, and donating $20,000 to create a new “Developing for AR 101” program where students can earn college accreditation in partnership with Cal State.

  • We know many Niantics are eager to get involved in rebuilding their community. Today we give employees four days per year to attend Niantic game events. We're turning this benefit into Flex Days and adding a day, so you’ll have five Flex Days a year to attend a Niantic event or volunteer.

  • We will actively work to ensure accountability to all these commitments. We are formalizing our D&I council, and will use this group along with dedicated involvement from senior leadership to ensure accountability.

  • Lastly, we will take a public stance in support of the Black community and reject white supremacy, racism, and police brutality.

We also know that many of our employees are eager to be involved in helping, but aren’t sure where to start. With the help of the newly formed Diversity and Inclusion council, I’d like to share some resources that you can use as a starting point.

  • Educate yourself on the Black Lives Matter movement. We must educate ourselves and each other in order to support the movement as best we can.

  • Apply to be a Gameheads mentor. We need Niantics to volunteer and mentor the next generation of technology leaders.

  • Volunteer and join your fellow Niantics in organizing and contributing to the movement internally by filling out our form. The Diversity and Inclusion council will share opportunities for how you can get involved.

We are committed to this cause. These initiatives don’t end with an announcement. The work to follow through will require years of effort to yield the impact we seek. Along the way, we’ll be looking for even more opportunities to deepen these initiatives.

The heart of Niantic is our community of players. It is imperative that we stand up to support our Black Trainers, Agents, and Wizards. We aim to be a force of change committed to the long road ahead of rebuilding a more just and fair system where historical racial divides are overcome and where all are welcomed, valued, and have a fair chance at success. The first step is overcoming the racism and injustice that prevents members of our community from safely enjoying the freedom and pleasure of a simple walk or run outdoors. Black Lives Matter.

-John Hanke

May 27, 2020
Summer’s Pokémon GO Fest Returns on July 25–26

Niantic

In 2019, our Pokémon GO Fest lineup was our biggest celebration ever. We held events in Chicago, Dortmund, and Yokohama, bringing together 600,000 Trainers for the special summer events.

We’re bringing back Pokémon GO Fest on July 25–26 as an all-new, completely reimagined global event in a virtual format. The adventures of Pokémon GO Fest are coming direct to Trainers and neighborhoods around the world so anyone can participate from home.

Pokémon GO Fest is now a two-day experience, and Trainers can, for the first time, play on both days. Since the event is now global, we’re taking steps to make tickets available to as many Trainers as possible.

This year’s Pokémon GO Fest is designed from the ground up to connect Trainers like never before. While we’ll miss celebrating with each other in a beautiful park, we’ve come up with new ways for the community to connect and team up together that we’ll roll out during the summer. It will be an exciting weekend for the entire family, with new experiences, gameplay, and surprises throughout the event.

Check the Pokémon GO blog and Pokémon GO Fest website for more updates in the coming weeks.

–Michael Steranka, Director, Marketing & Global Live Events

May 26, 2020
Reality Blending and PokéStop Scanning Come to Pokémon GO

Niantic

Two new AR features are rolling out to select Pokémon GO players over the next few weeks. These updates will help us create more realistic AR experiences and continue our efforts toward building a 3-D map of the world—one that is oriented around people.

Testing Out Reality Blending in Pokémon GO

In June, we’ll start rolling out a new beta feature in Pokémon GO called Reality Blending that will let your Buddy Pokémon better interact with the real world. A Pokémon will be able to hide behind an actual object or be partially behind a tree or table blocking its path, just like how it would appear in the real world.

As Pokémon GO has grown throughout the years, Trainers have been able to walk, play, and take snapshots with their Buddy Pokémon. This new feature will bring Pokémon even closer to reality. Reality Blending will initially roll out to a limited number of players that have a Samsung Galaxy S9, Samsung Galaxy S10, Google Pixel 3, or Google Pixel 4, with more Trainers and eligible devices being added in the near future.

Pokémon GO Players Can Now Contribute to a 3-D Map of the World

Since Portal Scanning launched in Ingress, agents have scanned hundreds of thousands of points of interest for inclusion in building the 3-D map for games and future apps. We are now bringing this opt-in feature to the Pokémon GO community with PokéStop scanning. This feature will be first available to level 40 Trainers in early June before rolling out to more players by level.

Pokémon Trainers will be able to contribute to building 3-D maps of the locations of their favorite PokéStops and Gyms by walking around those locations and recording videos with their devices. These videos allow us to generate dynamic 3-D maps of PokéStop and Gym locations, which will improve the game’s AR experiences overall. A machine-readable, 3-D map of a place gives devices (such as current mobile phones and future headsets) a better understanding of the depth and the complexities of the real world. In the future, this will allow us to tie virtual objects to real-world locations and provide Pokémon with spatial and contextual awareness of their surroundings. For instance, this awareness could help Snorlax find that perfect patch of grass to nap on or give Clefairy a tree to hide behind.

Your privacy is incredibly important to us, and any information Trainers choose to send to Niantic is automatically anonymized, including blurring potentially recognizable objects, like faces or license plates. Niantic does not collect or store any personal data in connection with this information, and it is not tied to specific player accounts. For more information, please read our privacy policy.

By using 2-D images of people-generated points of interest to create a dynamic 3-D map of the world, we can spark the evolution of mapping from utilities traditionally oriented around transit (streets and walkways) to more meaningful and valuable location-based information oriented around people’s interests. When community members choose the points of interest that matter to them, we can use that information to build a new digital map of the world.

While there are still a lot of challenges to tackle on the way to improving AR, these additions will help us continue to create fun and exciting ways for people to interact with the world. By bringing better interactions to AR and by making it possible for people to share the places that matter to them, we aspire to create a special map of the world that inspires people to explore.

-Kjell Bronder