Formerly-Google-owned Niantic Inc has opened a new office in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, giving it a foothold in Japan closer to one of its major investors, Nintendo.
Tokyo seems a good fit for Niantic. Besides Ingress’ huge userbase in the country (local anomaly events often see thousands of attendees), the company has forged relationships with a number of companies helping to support the game – MUFG and Softbank even have ingame items named after them, while convenience store chain Lawson has also appeared ingame as a series of portals.
Niantic’s new Tokyo office will be lead by Setsuto Murai, an ex-Googler who previously worked at NTT, GMO and Feedburner. According to this Google+ post, Niantic’s prior partnerships in the country are the work of Murai himself, making him a valuable recruit to head up local operations.
While Niantic continues to build and extend Ingress and its massive community of players, the company currently has a big focus on creating Pokemon Go, announced a few months ago as the franchise’s first steps into a GPS-based augmented reality game that will run on mobile phones.
Develop says that John Hanke, Niantic’s CEO said that the office would build Niantic’s AR and mapping platform. Serkan Toto also reports that the office will be responsible for developing “top-level real-world games” – we read this to mean “Pokemon Go”, although that game is already under development. The company has previously said that they see Ingress as a platform on which others could build games in the future – perhaps now it’s going to make good on this vision, or maybe Niantic Tokyo will bring us something entirely new.