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Business News/ Industry / Media/  ‘We’ll soon introduce six local languages, QSR partnerships’

‘We’ll soon introduce six local languages, QSR partnerships’

We don’t really believe in Meta’s vision of the metaverse—we believe more in a real-world experience

Omar Tellez, vice-president, emerging markets, NianticPremium
Omar Tellez, vice-president, emerging markets, Niantic

On 15 September, American augmented reality (AR) technology firm Niantic, which is behind Pokémon Go, entered India, introducing the Hindi version of the popular mobile game. In an interview, Omar Tellez, vice-president, emerging markets, Niantic, said the seventh most-downloaded and highest revenue-grossing game on Android worldwide, according to data from market statistics firm Singular, will be seeking to create interactive extended reality and metaverse gaming experiences.Edited excerpts:

Why is Niantic entering India seven years after the launch of Pokémon Go?

India has been a massive market for Android,and we are seeing fast adoption of new devices, with over 500 million active smartphone users. That is great for us, because for augmented reality, we need to have a graphics accelerator and advanced features in the phones. Today, you can find sub-$100 smartphones that have good enough features to match our needs, and within two years we may find similar features in sub-$50 phones, which will only expand the market. We are doing this because we’re seeing immense fandom for the game in India. This is why we are making significant investments here, and over the past year, we’ve added over 5 million points of interest. We’ve been working up to this point for over a year now, and Hindi is only the first of the six Indian languages we’ll launch. We have set up a team in India, through both direct and indirect association across Bengaluru and Mumbai, working on marketing and business development for Niantic. We’re also organizing community days within the game, and we’ve found people to be excited.

Is the gamer base in India sizeable enough to warrant this move?

India’s mobile gaming size is outstanding—500 million is an incredible user base. This makes it a very competent and competitive market, and we wanted to ensure we had the right connections with communities to be able to tap into it. We also want to make sure we had the right devices to play the game. The Pokémon Co. has established an India team and has plans to grow its fan base here. Later this month, we’ll be making key brand partnerships for the market. This will be with a quick-service retail (QSR) restaurant—to help us turn QSR into a place of engagement, where gamers can visit to draw promotional discounts on the game, and make it an interesting online-to-offline experience intersection.

We’ve also launched a new alternate payments platform that can be accessed through browsers, which opens up our games for more payment wallets and platforms that are popular in India.

Does Pokémon Go still have enough interested gamers to warrant such a move?

Pokémon Go was the fastest game to achieve 1 billion downloads globally. In India as well, we’ve seen tens of millions of downloads, and we still have a sizeable user base in India. The summer of 2016 saw that gamers across the world, of all ages, demographics and socioeconomic classes, came together for the game, and we still retain a very big base today worldwide. As per, we have 65 million monthly active users. Even in India,’s information showed Pokémon Go to be the second most-downloaded and played in the adventure games category a couple of weeks ago.

Are there more plans for localization, given that Diwali was the first Indian festival to feature in the game globally?

Our intent is to work with communities to grow. One of our recent moves is to make Diwali a global event in the game. We want to continue bringing more such localized live events here.

Since Pokémon Go’s rise to popularity, the ‘metaverse’ has come and gone from the hype cycle. Would Niantic look at such experiences?

I fully agree that the metaverse is overused, and has also gone in decline. We don’t really believe in Meta’s vision of the metaverse—we believe more in a real-world experience, wherein the real world is augmented that merges the real and digital worlds.

For instance, you should be able to approach a bus stop as you play our game, and within the game itself you should also be able to see a live view of which buses are approaching and their timings.

We are pushing hard on building real-world AR or metaverse experiences. It is going to happen, and we’re already working with several head-mounted display companies to make this happen. In this regard, with Apple’s Vision Pro headset announcement, we’re at a reckoning moment. This can be akin to a moment such as the launch of the Motorola Rokr (a landmark mobile phone that opened up the world to music streaming) in 2005, or the first Apple iPhone in 2007.

Right now, for AR headsets, we’re presently somewhere in the middle of the Rokr and the iPhone moments in terms of innovation. Apple’s headset is still too bulky, and it’s pass-through as opposed to see-through. But Apple’s expertise with consumers is pivotal here, and one of the best ways to mature towards a see-through metaverse experience is through games.

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Shouvik Das
Shouvik Das is a science, space and technology reporter for Mint and TechCircle. In his previous stints, he worked at publications such as CNN-News18 and Outlook Business. He has also reported on consumer technology and the automobile sector.
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Updated: 19 Sep 2023, 11:37 PM IST
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