Nintendo Partners With Niantic for AR Games, Starting with Pikmin

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Nintendo and Niantic have announced a partnership to jointly develop new AR games based on Nintendo franchises. The first game will be based on the Pikmin series, and be “built on Niantic’s real-world AR technology,” which has most famously been used for Pokémon Go.

Niantic is the studio behind the well known Pokémon Go, a mobile game that leverages geo-location mechanics which require that players traverse the real world in order to play.

Now the studio says it has entered into a partnership with Nintendo to develop multiple new AR titles, starting with the Pikmin franchise, which got its start in 2001 on GameCube as an RTS puzzle game where players command hordes of little plant characters. Niantic says the title will launch later this year and is being developed by its Tokyo Studios group.

With such a success already based on Pokémon, partly owned by Nintendo, it makes sense that the companies would seek to expand the concept with new games.

A big question for us is whether or not the upcoming games will truly make use of AR, or simply be based on geo-location mechanics. Although Pokémon Go is referred to by Niantic as an “augmented reality” game, it’s gameplay is largely based on mapping rather than overlaying the real-world with digital information. And while there are some true AR functions in the game, they’re largely optional and aesthetic.

We’d love to see the Pikmin AR game learn further into real AR mechanics than Pokémon Go. At a minimum, Pikmin seems well suited for proper AR mechanics as the original games focus on controlling lots of tiny creatures that the player commands to achieve goals within the environment—something that would be much more grounded with proper AR visualization.

Unfortunately the only hint the studio has offered for the gameplay so far is that, “the app will include gameplay activities to encourage walking and make walking more delightful,” which doesn’t give us too much hope that it will be more than geo-location features.

Still, with more titles on the horizon, and Niantic recently showing a concept demo of Pokémon Go built for proper AR and running on HoloLens 2, it’s possible that the company is heading in a more immersive direction for the upcoming Nintendo titles.

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