There are many other games that have tried to just copy and paste the Pokémon Go concept into their IP. I don’t think it’s working that well,” explains Archit Bhargava, Director of Worldwide Product Marketing – Niantic, Inc., on why the industry hasn’t been able to create another hit mobile augmented reality (AR) game that matches the hype, scale, and social nature Pokémon Go.

Bhargava says that creating games like Pokemon Go requires not only technical prowess and infrastructure but also a better understanding of mobile phone network technology to do the right amount of processing in the app itself on the smartphone for a seamless and smooth experience.” is definitely not easy.

“AR is something that shouldn’t feel like it’s just a gaming experience. It should feel like it really adds to the experience,” says Bhargava. “We’re still in the early stages, I think it’s going to take a lot of iteration, a lot of work to bring the concept of AR into the mainstream.” AR, as the name suggests, combines digital images and information with the real world.

However, Bhargava is hopeful that the company’s big bet to develop the augmented reality (AR) mobile gaming market will pay off well in the future. Its latest AR game “Pikmin Bloom” borrows a lot of core elements from Pokémon Go, but offers a completely different experience. The game debuted in Western markets late last year and is now headed to India, the second largest smartphone market in the world. It is available as a free download from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

The main goal of “Pikmin Bloom” is to make you go through using cute little creatures called Pikmin. In Pikmin Bloom, you plant Pikmin that grow automatically as you walk, then pluck them. The more you walk, the more Pikmin friends you can make.

Niantic’s Tokyo Studio worked directly with Nintendo on “Pikmin Bloom.” Pikmin isn’t as popular as Nintendo’s original IPs, but it has a loyal following. “Pikmin Bloom [the game] was a collaboration between Niantic and Nintendo,” Bhargava said, adding that Nintendo has no experience in creating real-world games, but Niantic has a decade of experience in making such products.

When the game launched last year, it lacked a number of features, but both Niantic and Nintendo quickly figured out what was missing, Bhargava acknowledged, particularly the social element. To make “Pikmin Bloom” more compelling for users, Niantic recently introduced walking challenges and the ability to invite your friends no matter where they are. The goal is to motivate you to get out of the house, walk more and have fun playing Pikmin Bloom.

“When we launch our products, we will launch them globally, but there’s a lot of groundwork we need to do over time to make the products work really well,” Bhargava explained when asked why there was a long lag between the US and India game launches.

Although Bhargava called India a strategically important market, he said the playability of its games is higher in markets like the US. “There are many more cities, and in countries like the US and Japan, which are very walking friendly, we have mapped more places on our map,” he said. “It’s actually a combination of manual and algorithms.” “We started this process in earnest for India four years ago and we are in full swing to improve it,” he added.

Bhargava didn’t reveal India’s role in making Pokémon GO the hit it is today, but said the number of people playing the AR game is still growing. Pokémon Go has a huge following, and players have spent more than $5 billion on the AR game in the five years since its launch, according to a report by analytics firm Sensor Tower.

Despite the popularity of mobile games like Battlegrounds Mobile India and Call of Duty: Mobile in India, Bhargava believes there is a space and gaming market where Niantic has thrived over the years. “The games we create get people outside, walking, exploring, and connecting with others in the real world. And if you go to one of your events, it’s pure magic. It’s like being in a version of Disneyland.” Bhargava was referring to Pokemon Go Fest events, which are usually held in major global cities. India recently joined the list.

Bhargava, who grew up in Mumbai and later earned an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, says Niantic showed the world how to create real games that are interactive and social. Niantic rose to fame with the popular location-based game “Ingress,” which was an internal Google startup. However, in 2015, Niantic Labs separated from Google and became an independent company. Niantic counts both Nintendo and Google as its investors.

With the tech industry eyeing the metaverse as the next big thing, Niantic announced its Lightship AR Developer Kit earlier this year, which offers tools for creating augmented reality games. Niantic’s tools make it easy to create augmented reality solutions for smartphones that don’t require additional technology. The company also revealed that it is working with Hasbro on a Pokémon Go-style Transformers game. He is also developing an AR game called Peridot; it’s an original title with a combination of Pokémon and Tamagotchi.

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