Google’s now formerly-Google’s Niantic Labs division announced on its Google+ page this week that it’s going independent and spinning out of its parent company. The new company will be named Niantic Inc, and it seems that Google will continue to support them in their newfound independence.
Niantic Labs is responsible for Field Trip, an app that shows you interesting destinations while you’re out and about and is perhaps best known for Ingress, the company’s global location-based augmented reality game that’s usually the reason for yours truly’s lack of posting activity. A new game, Endgame: Proving Ground, is due for release later this year.
Niantic Labs is becoming an independent company. We’ll be taking our unique blend of exploration and fun to even bigger audiences with some amazing new partners joining Google as collaborators and backers.
The company has operated as a start-up within but separate to Google since 2010, originally intended as a way to keep Niantic’s head John Hanke from leaving Google after he spent several years as Vice President of Google’s “Geo” division.
As Ingress authenticates players based on their Google account, there needs be a transfer of data transfer between the two companies in order to properly establish them as separate entities and keep agent profiles active in the game. This data transfer is scheduled to take place on September 11, and the company has set up an “opt out” page that agents can use if they don’t wish their data to be transferred to Niantic on that day.
N is not for Niantic
The announcement has led to speculation that the company would be a more direct part of Google’s new parent company, Alphabet, although it appears this isn’t the case and the company intends to go it alone.
A Google spokesperson told TechCrunch that Niantic is “now ready to accelerate their growth by becoming an independent company, which will help them align more closely with investors and partners in the entertainment space” and confirmed that Google will continue to support the company.
Further, Ingress players think this might explain why Niantic has pulled back from officially supporting Ingress First Saturday events around the world. First Saturday was established late last year as an official, monthly Niantic-backed event but the company has been silent on organisation of the July and August events, with registration being organised instead by the Fev Games player community.
The last year has seen Niantic attempt to add sponsored elements to the game bearing the names of real-world institutions, with a puzzling finance-centric bent – French investment banking firm AXA has had their name attached to the strongest shields in the game since late 2014, while more recently the Japanese financial group Mistubishi UFJ Financial Group sponsored the “MUFG Capsule”, an in-game item that “pays interest” by creating new items based on those stored within. The Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank’s name also appears on the Ultra Link, an item that allows you to connect the game’s portals over long distances.
It’s possible that the newly-formed Niantic Inc will look to these companies as some of their new investors and partners, but only time will tell.