Niantic doesn’t seem to be doing as well as they’d like us to think, it seems. The company has announced the cancellation of four different projects and will be laying off nearly 100 employees.
An email was recently shared with Niantic employees (which was reported on by Bloomburg). In it, Niantic Chief Executive Officer John Hanke stated that the company was “facing a time of economic turmoil” and that they will be making some changes to ensure the company’s survival.
The core change is the cancellation of four different projects the studio was working on at the time: Heavy Metal, Hamlet, Blue Sky, and Snowball.
Heavy Metal was a collaborative effort between Niantic and the Transformers franchise. Released last year, it followed the AR format the company is known for, with players building up and equipping their own transforming robots. Hamlet was a collaboration with theater company Punkdrunk, presumably relating to the famous Shakespearean play. Nothing else is known about the remaining projects. Between them all, about 85-90 jobs are being cut.
It’s no secret that Pokémon GO is Niantic’s golden child. While they had relative success with the Ingress games, nothing they’ve produced has gone quite as far as Pokémon has. Though that hasn’t stopped them from trying, having produced mobile AR games for countless major brands, including Minecraft, Harry Potter, Settlers of Catan, Five Nights at Freddy’s, Pikmin, and more.
Not all of their future ideas have been binned, though. Peridot, Niantic’s original IP, is still in development. And just recently they announced a partnership with the NBA to produce an AR-based basketball game to “find, challenge, and compete against today’s NBA ballers in their neighborhoods.”
To be concerned for Niantic’s future is a perfectly valid feeling. While they’ve expanded into as many brands as they can, their overall gameplay formula remains the same. And it’s a formula that was perfect when GO launched, but it’s not as popular as it once was. They will need to find a clean and effective way to translate their skills to other concepts if they want to continue to survive in this unpredictable climate.