With Pokémon GoNiantic has become the poster child for the power of mobile augmented reality (AR) apps. Since then, the company has struggled to regain that glory. Yesterday’s layoffs and canceled projects only reinforced how difficult things have been for Niantic due to the pandemic, which has made it difficult for people to go out and gather in groups. However, it turns out that Niantic has another way to double down on its AR leadership: making it easier for its existing players to communicate with each other.
Today, the company started rolling out Campfire, a social app that allows Niantic users to chat with friends, join like-minded mobile mobile groups, and host big events like: Pokémon Go’s raids so far, poke-addicts used Discord and other messaging apps to organize their meetings. However, seeing a possibly missed opportunity, Niantic has developed its own social platform that will be accessible on all of its games (including its first major release, Ingress).
A campfire is more than just texting. It also gives gamers a broader perspective on everything the company’s games have to offer. Inside Pokémon Go, for example, can show you that there is a Venusaur hanging on the other side of town, a much larger view than you would normally see in the game’s main app. Also, on certain events, you can light a flare notifying other local players that you’re asking for help to combat this. And as you might expect, Campfire also makes it easy to coordinate with your friends, like being able to quickly DM them if you have a Snorlax you want to take on.
Even if you don’t have a Campfire, you’ll still see some benefits in the company’s apps. This expanded map view will be integrated into: Pokémon Go, for one person. This is beneficial for all players and also provides a seductive glimpse of what they can access if they sign up for Campfire.
According to Ivan Zhou, product manager at Niantic, the company still focuses on bringing people together in the real world rather than using Campfire to power distant events. The app’s Communities feature is also a big step forward, as it allows users to create groups around any topic. Zhou was already surprised to see groups emerging for niche local topics. There’s also room for Campfire to grow as a location-first social network (like Facebook’s Groups) rather than using location as an afterthought.
The company says users in the US will be able to access Campfire in the coming days, while for international access Pokémon Go It will burn all summer. There is no specific launch date yet, but the company says it will announce future updates on its social channels.
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