When we released Pokémon GO on iOS and Android devices on July 5, we were anticipating that millions of people around the globe would play our new game. What we did not foresee was that Pokémon GO would immediately become a global phenomenon. From initial release in Australia and New Zealand to now being available in more than 90 countries, Pokémon GO has since been downloaded more than 500 million times.
Over the last four years, Niantic’s engineering team built and scaled Ingress, our first Real World game, creating a unique software architecture to provide an optimal platform with massive scalability for all of our games going forward. While our platform was architected to avail itself of any of the available cloud providers, our experience with Google Cloud Platform made it the obvious choice to bring Pokémon GO’s augmented reality world to life.
Google Cloud Platform’s range of services allowed us to focus solely on our players rather than sink time into managing and securing servers and infrastructure. Having the real-time shared world of Pokémon GO inhabited by hundreds of millions of players required scalable architecture throughout the the serving stack. The Cloud Datastore service that we were utilizing was soon running at more than fifty times our original projections. Player demand ultimately spiked by more than an order of magnitude, ten times our most aggressive estimates, requiring hot fixes and ongoing game changes against a backdrop of massive growth in players.
With Google Cloud product and engineering teams at our side as consultative partners, Niantic was able to overcome the rush of millions of enthusiastic Trainers and stabilize the service. Engineering teams from both companies began working hand-in-hand around the clock the moment it became clear that the game’s popularity would exceed our wildest estimates. More than a dozen teams across Cloud Platform and other core Google products rallied to support us as we pushed live improvements to the game for our players. In parallel, Google’s infrastructure teams worked to tune systems, ensuring sufficient capacity for us to keep up with the game’s skyrocketing popularity.
We want to extend a huge thank you to the Google Cloud team for their support and look forward to growing the Pokémon GO community with them in coming years.
Phil Keslin, CTO Niantic
Circle K was founded in 1951 in El Paso, TX and is the largest independent convenience-store operator in the United States. In December 2015, Circle K piloted an Ingress partnership in the greater Phoenix, AZ metro area with 418 locations becoming in-game portals. As of today, Circle K has now activated all of their 4,700 US stores in the U.S. to become in-game portals. It is rumored that further expansion will occur in Canada and other countries around the world. Players can not only visit Circle K location in-game but will be able to receive Ingress passcodes within the Circle K app after making qualified purchases. The passcodes can be redeemed within the Ingress Scanner or the Intel Map for game items.
“ I feel this simple little game has been very good for me. Ever since my husband passed away close to two years ago, I’ve been living the life of a recluse. Yes, I became THAT woman in the house down the street. Now that I have the game, I am going out every day…stepping outside my comfort zone. This morning I went to the park and WALKED for 30 minutes. Now, keep in mind I use either a cane or walker to get around and walking is very difficult for me. I am usually embarrassed about this. But I found today people don’t really see that. They smile and wish a good morning. They are chasing that elusive Pikachu just like me. They don’t point and laugh at the disabled old woman hobbling along slowing them down. They SMILED at me and made the sun shine just a little bit more. Thank you for this wonderful new game and a new lease on life. ”
It’s been an incredible run since launch and, as we start wrapping up the summer in California, we want to thank all the Trainers for the enthusiasm they have shown for the game.
Pokémon GO has been installed hundreds of millions of times since our launch in early July and is played in more than 100 countries around the world. We are working hard to bring the game to more (India, we hear you!). All that and we’ve only scratched the surface of gameplay that we want to create. It’s been terrific to see all the activity throughout the world. Most inspiring has been the response from people of all ages and lifestyles describing how Pokémon GO has been force for good in their lives. We set out to create an experience that encourages discovery, exercise and real world connections and it has been incredible to see that mission come to life.
New stories have surfaced virtually daily about Trainers getting out into the real world, becoming more healthy, meeting neighbors, and helping kids. We’ve also heard from people using the game to cope with social anxiety, depression and autism, and even using it to improve their relationships. We have heard from tens of thousands of you directly, including amazing examples such as Kelly, who emailed us to tell her story about getting out finding a new sense of purpose. We have seen dozens of self-organized player events, some with humanitarian goals such as Pokémon for Progress. All of your stories and smiles have motivated us through sleepless nights.
Thank you for your continued support! We’ve got a lot more in the works this fall. Stay tuned here for all the details.
John Hanke and the team at Niantic
Things have been pretty crazy here at Niantic over the last few weeks but despite all of the ups and downs we get up every day inspired by the original goals of Niantic – to create an experience that encourages healthy outdoor exploration and social gameplay. Every positive story we hear (like this one from the UK) motivates us to keep working to support the game and continue the roll-out. Running a product like Pokémon GO at scale is challenging. Those challenges have been amplified by third parties attempting to access our servers in various ways outside of the game itself.
As some of you may have noticed we recently rolled out Pokémon GO to Latin America including Brazil. We were very excited to finally be able to take this step. We were delayed in doing that due to aggressive efforts by third parties to access our servers outside of the Pokémon GO game client and our terms of service. We blocked some more of those attempts yesterday. Since there has been some public discussion about this, we wanted to shed some more light on why we did this and why these seemingly innocuous sites and apps actually hurt our ability to deliver the game to new and existing players. The chart below shows the drop in server resources consumed when we blocked scrapers. Freeing those resources allowed us to proceed with the Latin America launch.
In addition to hampering our ability to bring Pokémon GO to new markets, dealing with this issue also has opportunity cost. Developers have to spend time controlling this problem vs. building new features. It’s worth noting that some of the tools used to access servers to scrape data have also served as platforms for bots and cheating which negatively impact all Trainers. There is a range of motives here from blatant commercial ventures to enthusiastic fans but the negative impact on game resources is the same.
Of course, there are also outright hackers out there attempting to break into systems, hijack social media accounts, and even bring down the service. Some of them have posted publicly about their attempts.
We don’t expect these attempts to stop. But we do want you to understand why we have taken the steps we have and why we will continue to take steps to maintain the stability and integrity of the game.
We value feedback from our community. We have heard feedback about the Nearby feature in the game and are actively working on it. Over the past three and half years many of us in the company have traveled throughout the country and, in fact, around the world to meet, play, and learn from our Ingress user community. And we look forward to doing the same with the Pokémon GO community. Please keep your game ideas and feedback coming. We look forward to getting the game on stable footing so we can begin to work on new features.
Above all, be safe, be nice to your fellow Trainers, and keep on exploring.
Five years ago, Niantic set out on a path to change the way people interact with the world around them by creating the world’s first “real world gaming” platform. By exploiting the capabilities of smartphones and location technology and through building a unique massively scalable server and global location dataset, we have helped users all around the world have fun, socialize, and get more fit as they play and explore. Ingress, our first “real world” game, has given millions of players an entirely new way to see the world around them.
Those players have coalesced into an amazing global community where players compete, collaborate, and celebrate in more than 200 countries around the world. Some have literally traveled to the ends of the earth in their quest to help their faction control the world. It’s the passion of this community that inspires us to come to work every day to create new experiences.
Which brings us to our next adventure together. We are pleased to announce that Pokémon GO, the next evolution of Real World Gaming, is now officially available on both the App Store and on Google Play Store in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. It will be available in other countries around the world in the days ahead.
We’re excited that Pokémon fans and gamers can now start exploring their very own neighborhoods and cities to capture Pokémon using the Pokémon GO app. Players can discover and catch more than 100 Pokémon from the original Red and Blue games, take Pokémon into battle against other Pokémon at Gyms, uncover items including a variety of types of Poké Balls and eggs at PokéStops, hatch and train new Pokémon, and more.
We are also super excited about the Pokémon GO Plus wearable device which will enable players to capture Pokémon and harvest items from PokéStops without ever taking their phone out of their pocket or bag. Players can explore the world and play the game while keeping their attention on the people and sites around them. A walk in the park just became more fun. :-)
We can’t wait to hear about the adventures around the world that Pokémon trainers undertake.
It’s GO time!
John Hanke and the Niantic team
Our team has been making the most of the sunny California weather by walking long distances and enthusiastically testing all of the refinement and new features in Pokémon GO. Many of these refinements have been inspired by feedback received from our field testers in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and United States. Thank you for testing the app and for giving us such great feedback.
We have a few exciting updates to share. We’ve added a new Camera feature that enables Trainers to take photographs of their wild Pokémon encounters. Now you can take a photo of Squirtle next to that scenic lake or Ivysaur hanging out by the park. The photos will be saved to your phone’s camera roll to share with whomever you’d like. We can’t wait to see the varied environments in which trainers will find wild Pokémon.
We’re also thrilled to announce that Pokémon GO’s all-new music track is composed by GAME FREAK’s Junichi Masuda. We’ve been working closely with Masuda-san on several of the core game design elements of Pokémon GO and feel very fortunate to also have drawn from his decades of experience composing original music for the Pokémon games.
We enjoyed participating in Nintendo’s Treehouse Live Pokémon GO developer Q&A session at E3 today. With each day, we’re getting closer to launch and we can’t wait to share this game with everyone. Stay tuned for more details.
– The Pokémon GO Development team
It’s getting closer. It’s been sort of like making a big meal for your friends or family. We have been sweating the details in the kitchen and now we are anxious and excited to share our creation with you.
Some of you have been in the kitchen with us. You’ve have done a great job of guiding us so far. Across Japan, Australia and New Zealand, Pokémon GO field testers have been collecting and battling with impressive regularity and we’re learning a lot from them. And today, we’re expanding that field test to the United States to get more feedback to improve the game.
It’s been exciting to hear stories from our testers as they explore the world around them in their quest to collect Pokémon and recently we’ve added a ton of new features to expand gameplay even further. Trainers can now help Pokémon evolve, opening up a whole new area of gameplay. Trainers can also find and collect Pokémon Eggs in addition to fully grown Pokémon. Trainers will get a good workout as you must walk a preset distance in order to hatch the Egg and find out what Pokémon will emerge. Incubators are provided to help with this process.
Trainers also will encounter Pokémon Gyms at real-world locations. Pokémon Gyms are special locations where Trainers can test their Pokémon in battles as they compete to win control of the Gym for one of three Pokémon Trainer teams. Empty Gyms are claimed by a team when a Trainer places a Pokémon there to claim it. Friendly Gyms grow in prestige when their defending Pokémon are trained in battles. Higher level Gyms have room for more Trainers to deploy Pokémon to defend them. Rival Gyms can be challenged by Trainers who can use their Pokémon to attack the defending Pokémon. Groups of players can work together to challenge rival Gyms.
Fun fact - After many hours of field test gameplay, the Venusaur hasn’t been spotted yet. Who will be the first field tester who catches or evolves their Bulbasaurs or Ivysaurs into Venusaur? There’s much to explore and many Pokémon to find! :)
Our team is learning and iterating, and we can’t wait to share Pokémon GO with everyone. Stay tuned for more details.
– The Pokémon GO Development Team
The Pokémon Company and Niantic invite users to field test Pokémon GO in the United States of America. Users can visit http://pokemongo.nianticlabs.com to sign up. Please note that sign up doesn’t guarantee access to the field test. The Pokémon GO field test will give users the opportunity to share early feedback and help improve the Pokémon GO experience.
Thank you for your interest in Pokémon GO.
— The Pokémon GO Development Team
Pokémon GO Australia & New Zealand field test invites will start rolling out today. Niantic will select users based on a variety of factors which may include OS types, experience in real world games and an element of luck. If you’re selected to participate, you’ll receive an email from us with detailed instructions. If you don’t receive an email, please be patient as we plan to increase the number of invites over time.
— The Pokémon GO Development Team
The Pokémon Company and Niantic invite users to field test Pokémon GO in Australia and New Zealand. Users can visit http://pokemongo.nianticlabs.com to sign up. Please note that sign up doesn’t guarantee access to the field test. The Pokémon GO field test will give users the opportunity to share early feedback and help improve the Pokémon GO experience.
Thank you for your interest in Pokémon GO.
— The Pokémon GO Development Team
We’re thrilled to provide a peek into Pokémon GO.
Pokémon GO represents the next generation of Niantic’s “Real World Gaming” platform. This platform combines mobile location technology and augmented reality to create a unique game experience that motivates players to go outside and explore the world around them.
Players will explore their surroundings to find and catch wild Pokémon. Certain wild Pokémon only appear in their native environments; for example, Water-type Pokémon may only appear near lakes and oceans.
Players will walk to hatch previously-acquired eggs that might reveal new Pokémon. Eggs and other special items such as Poké Balls can be acquired at PokéStops - located at interesting places such as public art installations, historical markers, museums and monuments.
Yes, there will be battles. Players will be encouraged to join one of three teams in order to compete over the ownership and prestige of Gyms. They will do this by placing their captured Pokémon in a friendly Gym or by battling with an opponent’s Pokémon in another team’s Gym. Gyms - just like PokéStops - are also found at real world locations.
As previously shared with you here, an early user field test will soon begin in Japan while the game is still in active development. Features, available languages, design and overall appearance are not final.
We’re excited to reveal more in the days to come.
— The Pokémon GO Development Team
The Pokémon Company and Niantic will be inviting users to field test Pokémon GO in Japan later this month. The Pokémon GO field test program will give users the opportunity to share early feedback and help improve the Pokémon GO experience. Please stay tuned for information about expansion of the field test to other markets.
Thank you for your interest in Pokémon GO.
— The Pokémon GO Development Team
We’ve never thought of ourselves as a typical gaming company at Niantic. We’ve always followed our own path as we have worked to integrate real world exploration, social interaction and gameplay in our quest to improve the world through our products. I’m pleased to announce that a set of partners have signed up to help us in this mission. All are making an investment but more importantly each one brings a unique strategic attribute to our team
Alsop Louie will be bringing its expertise in gaming and related technologies and Gilman Louie will be joining the board. Gilman brings personal experience ranging from founding game industry pioneer Spectrum Holobyte to investing in Keyhole and later in Twitch. David Jones and his new venture ‘You and Mr Jones’ will be bringing an unparalleled knowledge of the new brand technology industry. David was previously the CEO of Havas where he worked closely with some of the leading brand advertisers in the world. Fuji Television, as one of the largest broadcast networks in Japan, will be bringing its experience building media brands in Asia. Cyan and Scott Banister and Lucas Nealan will be bringing their deep network of technology industry connections. Cyan and Scott Banister were just named “Angel Investors of the Year’ in the 2016 Crunchies and Lucas Nealan was an early Facebook engineer.
Exciting times are afoot at Niantic.
Wow. 2015 was a busy year for Niantic and one filled with some memorable challenges and triumphs for the team. Some of the highlights that stick out for me were mingling with more than 6,000 Ingress players at a massive Ingress event in historic Kyoto in the heart of cherry blossom season, winning the Game Designers Grand Prize at the Tokyo Game Show, announcing Pokémon GO with our new partners In Japan, closing our financing and spinning out of Google, and setting up our new offices and operations in four countries around the world.
It was absolutely amazing to watch the Ingress community continue to evolve through the course the year, many reaching spectacular heights– managing to launch a couple of ‘Ingress babies’ along with amazing Operations literally spanning the globe. We rolled into our three year anniversary topping 14M downloads and seeing the largest number of active players in the game’s history.
Agents didn’t just download the game. They immersed themselves in it at levels dwarfing past years, for example walking more than 258 million kilometers while playing Ingress in 2015. That’s nearly double the distance that players covered in 2014. Our Ingress Anomaly events series saw three times the number of attendees in 2015, bringing 254,184 people of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds together at real world meet ups that synced up around the world.
As I look toward Pokémon GO and beyond, I am as excited as I was on day one about how the idea of ‘Real World’ games can help us meet new people and forge connections in our home towns and around the world while also giving us a nudge to stay active and explore those less travelled paths, in our backyard and sometimes far beyond.
Is 2016 the year of VR? AR? I don’t love those labels because I think they understate the revolution happening in what people have traditionally called ‘games’ by casting the coming innovation as a single device or piece of technology. Video games and computer games have now become cornerstones of entertainment. To compare game sales numbers or minutes spent playing games to TV or movies is pointless. The result is obvious, even as innovators like Twitch merge them in new ways. And now some awesome new technology is making its way in the hands of users and inspiring the minds of developers, stuff people are calling VR, AR, MR, and a bunch of other invented acronyms. At one level you could say that all of it is an outgrowth of the smartphone revolution– tiny powerful processors, amazing displays, sensors of all kinds, robust location and mapping technology– all now made cheap, reliable and ubiquitous. I think we are going to see those basic building blocks refactored into all kinds of new hardware that will be exploited to blur the lines between games, cinema, apps, fitness and even navigation and commerce. I am not going to predict what the ‘winning’ hardware formula will be (in a sense we are all going to win as consumers and gamers by having a slew of innovative experiences to sample and enjoy) but I would bet on things that are more phone-like than PC-like. The future of technology will be one where it accompanies us everywhere and is there to enhance, enrich, and sometimes transform our lives on demand. Games and entertainment will be at the center of that.
It’s going to be a fun year. We are looking forward to seeing all kinds of innovation unfold and, perhaps more importantly, using it to populate the world with a few million Pokémon and then sitting back to watch what happens.
Back in August, we announced Niantic would spin out from Google to become an independent company. Today, we are thrilled to disclose that our mission will be backed by global giants in the game, entertainment and technology sectors.
The Pokémon Company, Google and Nintendo are investing up to $30 million in Niantic, Inc., which includes an initial $20 million upfront and an additional $10 million in financing conditioned upon the company achieving certain milestones. We will be using this capital to continue the development of Pokémon GO, to evolve and grow Ingress and its thriving global community, and to build out our real-world gaming platform.
It was quite an honor to be on stage in Tokyo last month with legendary games and entertainment heroes Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo, Tsunekazu Ishihara of The Pokémon Company, and Junichi Masuda of GAME FREAK to tell the world about Pokémon GO. We are all incredibly excited about the opportunity to create a product true to the spirit of the original Pokémon games while extending gameplay out into the real world. Because it is a mobile game, players all around the world will be able to immerse themselves in the Pokémon universe on devices they already have in their hands.
Here are some words from our esteemed investors:
Tsunekazu Ishihara, CEO, The Pokémon Company:
Pokémon’s strategic investment in Niantic paves the way for a social mobile experience the world has never seen before,” said Tsunekazu Ishihara, president and CEO of The Pokémon Company. “The Pokémon Company is committed to partnering with companies like Niantic that share the same spirit of community and innovation.
Don Harrison, VP of Corporate Development, Google:
Niantic has shown the great potential of mixing geolocation technology, dynamic storytelling, and innovative game design, and we’re excited to continue supporting the team on their journey.
It’s exciting to finally be able to share some of our big updates. We are hard at work in our new San Francisco and satellite offices preparing for a series of massive, global Ingress events this Fall, readying Pokémon GO for launch next year, and extending our platform to support a variety of experiences that support our core values of exercise, discovery, and fun.
Founder & CEO, Niantic, Inc.