India has shown us that console gaming is not a new world, you have to stay on the mobile side of the equation, Omar Tellez, VP, Emerging Markets, Niantic, highlighted how India is the epicenter of mobile gaming and the success of any game depends on how Indian users respond.
Tellez was in India to launch Pokmon Go in Hindi, Niantic’s biggest game to date which has amassed over a billion downloads since its launch in 2016. India showed us what mobile gaming is and how it’s done, has explained. tells indianexpress.com during an event in Delhi.
For years, Pokémon Go has had a cult following in Western markets, but the San Francisco-based mobile game developer is now looking to India in hopes of adding new players to an already popular title. Tellez says the way the game has been localized for Indian players and its availability in Hindi will bring more users into the Pokémon Go universe.
India has predominantly been a mobile-first gaming market with a huge player base, owing to high smartphone penetration and cheaper data tariffs. In fact, according to Niko Partners, a market research and consultancy firm covering video games, eSports and streaming in Asia and the Middle East, 98.8% of users play games on their mobile phones. This gives mobile game developers like Niantic the chance to tap into a large user base and build a fan base for their games in the world’s second-largest gaming market after China. This is why Niantic chose to localize the game for India by renaming all 800+ Pokemon to Hindi and making changes to in-game pricing. The developer also plans to launch a series of live events to interact with the Pokemon Go community in India in the future.
But a game like Pokemon Go has no upfront cost, meaning users don’t have to pay to download the game. Instead, Niantic earns money through community days, raid passes, incubators, and in-game purchases. It is a difficult market to operate in, especially in India where monetization is very low despite a large user base of gamers. Another challenge for Niantic is attracting the attention of mobile players who aren’t familiar with Pokémon or the Pokémon brand.
In Pokémon Go, players search for animated characters superimposed over real-life images on their phone screens. The hugely popular mobile game is based on Nintendo’s intellectual property, Pokmon, but the Japanese gaming giant did not make Pokmon Go. Niantic is the developer and publisher of the game, while the Pokémon Company markets and licenses the franchise. Nintendo is an investor in Niantic Labs (which split from Google years ago, and Google also remains an investor) and is also a one-third stakeholder in Pokmon Company.
The Pokémon franchise launched in 1996 on Nintendo’s Gameboy, helping establish the popular Japanese company as an entertainment powerhouse. The star of the Japanese Pokémon series, Pikachu is considered a pop culture icon and arguably the most popular animated character ever created. By some estimates, Pokemon is the most valuable media franchise in the world, with an estimated $100 billion in revenue from video and card games, TV shows and films, comics and licensed products. This puts Nintendo’s Pokémon franchise ahead of Mickey Mouse, Marvel, Star Wars and Hello Kitty in terms of value.
Despite a huge market with an expanding middle class to fuel sales growth and potentially a huge base for Nintendo’s cult characters, games and consoles in the future, the Japan-based gaming giant has shown no interest in be present in India. While Nintendo hasn’t indicated any plans to enter India, the Pokémon Company’s involvement alongside Niantic in Thursday’s event in Delhi may indicate that the Big N is serious about this Southeast Asian market after all. The Pokémon Company has created an Indian team, although it remains to be seen how long it will take to make inroads by increasing marketing efforts and expanding its presence in the country.
Tellez hopes India will be among the top five markets for Pokémon Go in the future. With 70 million monthly active users, Pokémon Go still has a large user base, and India will fuel the next wave of growth. The game’s primary base continues to be 18 to 34 year olds, but Tellez also wants to serve parents and the entire family with Pokémon Go.
When Pokemon Go launched years ago, its Augmented Reality gameplay mechanics were fresh and offered a new way to play AR games on smartphones. To date, Pokemon Go remains the best example of AR, a technology that allows users to overlay digital content on the real world, creating a truly immersive AR experience. That said, despite the success of Pokemon Go, the AR gaming market remains small. Developers have been unable to come up with compelling AR games that appeal to a wider audience.
But the augmented reality landscape already appears to be changing as more companies integrate AR into headsets or glasses that use powerful cameras and hardware. With the Metas Quest 3 launching later this year and the Apple Vision Pro headphones hitting store shelves next year, experts hope AR technology sees a boom.
It will definitely happen. It will take time, but we expect it to happen in the next five to 10 years, Tellez responded when asked how long it will take for AR technology to go from cellphone to headphones.
Two years ago, Niantic announced its software development platform designed to help app makers create augmented reality products using a variety of tools and technologies. The company also plans to build its AR metaverse based on its collection of AR location data, which Pokemon Go helped build.
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We believe the way to be successful with head-mounted AR is not just having the right technology but also having the right use case, and we have the right use case, he said.
Niantic has also previously demonstrated AR glasses, so its ambitions are to control the entire ecosystem, from software to hardware. It remains to be seen whether the company will be successful with its experiment with the real-world metaverse or whether it will meet the same fate as Meta.
Our platform, combined with our world map and content, provides a great hat trick for this [AR] take off, he said.
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