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Pokémon Go maker Niantic laying off hundreds, cancels NBA and Marvel games

Pokémon Go is the studio’s ‘top priority’

A photo shows Pokemon Go running on a phone Photo: Michael McWhertor/Polygon
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Pokémon Go developer Niantic is laying off 230 employees as it stops support for NBA All-World, ends production on Marvel: World of Heroes, and closes its Los Angeles studio. Niantic CEO John Hanke announced the layoffs and closures in an email sent to staff on Thursday. The company will focus its efforts on its “top priority,” Pokémon Go.

Hanke blamed the organizational changes and layoffs on a “tough market environment” spurred by “the overall global macroeconomic slowdown,” which manifested in Niantic growing “faster than revenue.” He also said the mobile game market is “crowded,” with “changes to the app store and the mobile advertising landscape have made it increasingly hard to launch new mobile games at scale.” Hanke added that Niantic takes responsibility for not meeting goals regarding monetization, the “social core,” and creating “powerful engagement features quickly and efficiently.”

Niantic will continue to support Pikmin Bloom, Monster Hunter Now, and its recently released Peridot. It did not specifically call out Ingress, its first game that was updated in 2018 to become Ingress Prime, in the email. NBA All-World and Marvel: World of Heroes join Niantic’s 2019 release, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, and others in its mobile game graveyard; Wizards Unite failed to take off as Niantic hoped and was shuttered in 2022.

Pokémon Go has been by far Niantic’s most successful game, and the company has been unable to match that success with its subsequent releases. (Pikmin Bloom has been a modest success, grossing $5.3 million globally since its 2021 launch, according to Sensor Tower.) The game remains popular, with new updates rolling out at a regular cadence. But in recent months, the player base has grown frustrated with some of Niantic’s decisions; in March, Niantic raised prices on its Remote Raid passes. More recently, Niantic issued an update that unintentionally increased the catch radius — an update players were excited for — before quickly rolling it back.

“The top priority is to keep Pokémon Go healthy and growing as a forever game,” Hanke said. “While we made some adjustments to the Pokémon GO team, our investment in the product and team continues to grow.”

Beyond Pokémon Go, Niantic is committed to “augmented reality as the future form factor for computing,” despite citing a slowly developing AR market. The company will continue to support its AR platform and maps.

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