Niantic Inc., the Google spinoff and developers of Pokémon Go, are teaming up again with Nintendo Co., this time in a long-term deal to develop augmented reality (AR) games based on Nintendo franchises, starting with Pikmin.
A long-term agreement was announced by the pair in Tokyo on Tuesday. Superimposing digital images onto the physical world is how turning Nintendo content into AR apps work. They will be releasing a Pikmin app in 2021, the first of the joint partnership games, based on the puzzle-solving series created by Nintendo’s creative fellow Shigeru Miyamoto in 2001.
“The app will include gameplay activities to encourage walking and make walking more delightful,” Niantic says in its blog post, according to IGN. “This will be the first title created by our Tokyo Studio since it was established in April 2018.”
Niantic becomes Nintendo’s fourth smartphone app development partner, and the Kyoto-based company’s mobile efforts will potentially get a much-needed push. Since 2016, Nintendo has developed fewer than 10 smartphone games with outside partners Cygames Inc., DeNA Co., and Line Corp.
San Francisco-based Niantic spun out of Alphabet Inc.’s Google in 2015. In 2016, it took the world by storm with its most successful creation, Pokémon Go, which was made in partnership with Nintendo. Since then, it has been a global pioneer in developing smartphone apps with AR technology and has worked with other licenses such as Settler of Catan and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.
Due to its release this year, the Pikmin app will be the first of a series of collaborations between the two tech companies and will be developed by Niantic’s Tokyo team. Tatsuo Nomura, Pokémon Go director, will lead the development of the app.
According to LiveMint, the partnership between Niantic and Nintendo does not include “additional financial support for Niantic” from the Japanese video game powerhouse, “which joined Google and Pokémon Co. in a $30 million funding round for the studio in 2015.”