Minecraft Earth is Taking on Pokemon Go This Summer

Have you ever been playing Pokemon Go and said to yourself “I wish this had more Minecraft in it?” Well if you have then you’re in luck, and maybe a little weird, not that we’re judging. Microsoft and Mojang have announced a new Augmented Reality game that is going to be taking the world by storm this summer, Minecraft Earth. Minecraft Earth will be a free to play game on Android and iOS and a closed beta is scheduled for this summer.

As you explore in Minecraft Earth you can find treasure chests, clusters of blocks, or mobs which have been given the nickname of “Tappables.” You’ll also be able to come across Adventures, which overlay a full Minecraft-like area with resources you can collect and mobs you can take out. The studio has also promised that we will see new mobs and new variants that are unique to Minecraft Earth. Of course, it wouldn’t be Minecraft if it didn’t have some building component to it. You’ll be able to find Build Plates where you can put together small environments that become life-sized when they’re placed. Best of all, there will be multiplayer, unlike a certain pocket monster game that shall remain unnamed.

If you want a chance to take part in the closed beta you can head over to the official site for Minecraft Earth and register now. As a way of saying thank you for registering so early, you’ll be able to get your hands on a free skin for Minecraft Earth and Minecraft Bedrock. If you want to know more about the game, and let’s admit it, you kinda do. Mojang has been kind enough to provide a pretty extensive FAQ that includes information about player safety amongst other things.

 

Source: Minecraft Earth Official Site, Gamespot

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MMO Money: Nexon is for Sale

A massive share of Nexon is for sale with some of the biggest names in the entertainment world taking an interest. Niantic has raised more funds to help them shape the future of Augmented Reality. Plus two different stories that involve lawsuits, including another one about Fortnite. Find all of that and more in this week’s look at online gaming’s business side.

 

Niantic Raises $245 Million in Funding

The makers of Pokemon Go are riding high right now as they just finished a round of funding that brought in $245 million for them to use on Niantic’s Real World Program. The funding will allow the company to bring on more staff for the AR project that aims to deliver “contextual computer vision” that will allow AR objects to understand and interact with objects in the real world. The funding brings Niantic’s total value up to nearly $4 billion.

The funding round was led by IVP who join the likes of aXiomatic Gaming, Battery Ventures, Causeway Media Partners, CRV, and Samsung Ventures who have already invested in Niantic. IVP Partner Sandy Miller had this to say about the funding, “IVP is excited to support Niantic in building the future of AR — initially as it delivers the magic of AR through highly popular games, but ultimately by delivering an operating system for applications that unite the digital world with the physical world. It’s a rare opportunity to partner up with a company that is already highly profitable at this stage, which is another reason we are so bullish on Niantic.”

Source: GamesIndustry

 

NCSoft Layoffs Staff at North American Mobile Studio

A few years ago, NCSoft announced they were pulling away from the North American and Western audience to focus more on their home audience. Then after a year or two, they announced that North America and Europe would play a key role in the company going forward. Part of that announcement included a new mobile games studio in California: Iron Tiger Studios. This studio was to work on mobile ports of NCSoft’s games as well as making new games.

Now here we are at the start of 2019 and layoffs have been announced for the studio. It wasn’t made clear how many people were hit by the layoff, but an NCSoft representative did stress that the studio wouldn’t be closing. Also, the game they were developing would continue in the hands of another studio, though which one isn’t known yet leaving the fate of the game up in the air at the moment. From the sounds of it, Iron Tiger Studios will continue to create mobile ports of NCSoft games rather than working on their own projects.

Source: MMOGames

 

Nexon is for Sale

When a 98.64% share in a company goes up for sale that effectively means the company is up for sale too, right? This is exactly what is happening with Nexon as the founder, Kim Jung-ju is selling his share of the company. This share is reportedly worth 9 billion dollars and it already has attracted a lot of attention from companies who are interested in buying it. Those companies include Activision, Disney, EA, and Tencent. There are also a number of US investment firms who are looking for US game companies to partner with to gather the funds needed for a bid.

An investment presentation session is planned for October in San Francisco in order to sell the shares. With $9 billion to be exchanged, it really isn’t a surprise that this is the sort of story that will take all year for us to see to completion. Whichever company does end up buying the shares will have quite an investment on their hands as Nexon has been having a great few years with their work in mobile gaming.

Source: MMOGames

 

Westworld Mobile Shutdown after Lawsuit

You may remember that back in June 2018 Bethesda and Behaviour Interactive along with Warner Bros. got into a legal dispute over the Westworld Mobile game that looked suspiciously like Fallout Shelter. Bethesda went so far as to call it a “blatant rip-off of Fallout Shelter.” In fact, it was so bad that they could point out specific bugs that existed in Fallout Shelter as well as the Westworld Mobile game.

After many months the copyright dispute was settled amicably, and in early January the companies involved put out a press release that was incredibly light on details. It only went so far as to say that the dispute was settled amicably and leaving every other detail out entirely. This, of course, left people wondering what the details of the agreement were and now it looks like we know.

The Westworld Mobile game is shutting down in April and it has already been removed from the App Store and Google Play. The dispute wasn’t mentioned in the announcement that the game was shutting down, but it isn’t very hard to put two and two together. Anyone who already has the game will be able to continue playing it until mid-April when the servers will be turned off for good.

Source: GamesIndustry

 

Orange Shirt Kid Joins in the Lawsuits Against Fortnite

The mother of Fortnite superfan Orange Shirt Kid has joined the list of people who are suing Epic over dances used in Fortnite. In this particular case, Orange Shirt Kid’s dance, which he called The Random, was put into the game as part of a dance contest. Unlike the others, The Random, called Orange Justice in Fortnite was never sold. In fact, it was given away for free. It was also submitted as part of a contest that specified the winner wouldn’t be compensated and that the dance would be used for promotional material, which is pretty standard stuff for a game run competition. After the dance became popular though, Orange Shirt Kid became the target of extreme cyberbullying that eventually resulted in his YouTube and Instagram accounts being deleted. It should also be said that this lawsuit was filed by the same law firm behind the 2Milly, Alfonso Ribeiro, and Backpack Kid lawsuits against Fortnite.

Source: Variety

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Blizzard Working on Warcraft Pokemon Go Style Game

While there may have been a lot of unhappy Diablo fans over the announcement of Diablo Immortal it turns out that there are a lot of mobile gamers in Blizzard. In fact, they have even more mobile games in the works, including a Warcraft Pokemon Go style game. Why? Because the developers at Blizzard love Pokemon Go and with it consistently being one of the top money making mobile games in the world it just makes good sense. Combine the biggest MMORPG with one of the biggest mobile games and profit while also working on something you love.

The news that Blizzard is working on a Pokemon Go style game based in the Warcraft universe came in part of a long article on Kotaku that looks at the future of Diablo, and in fact the culture currently in Blizzard. The article itself has a number of anonymous sources who either currently work at Blizzard or have recently. It’s a long read, but an important one for anyone who might not understand why Diablo Immortal exists or what is going on at Blizzard at the moment.

Things to do Before Battle for Azeroth Launches

 

The biggest revelation from Kotaku article is the Warcraft Pokemon Go game. In fact, it’s the only real newsworthy part of the entire article. The rest though, is a very interesting dive into the politics at Blizzard. It often refers to the fact that they’re focusing a lot on cutting costs and feeling pressure from Activision where they weren’t before. There appears to be a shift in the culture of the studio for better or for worse. One of the outcomes of this change is the inclusion of smaller game projects like Diablo Immortal, Warcraftemon Go, and other mobile games.

As for Warcraftemon Go, it will be joining a genre of games that is gaining quite a bit of momentum. It began with Ingress, Pokemon Go’s older brother. Then Pokemon Go was released and Niantic started working on the same type of game but in the Harry Potter universe. There’s also a Jurassic Park game, a totally new IP called Maguss, and even Jesus Christ himself has a version of this style of game.

 

Source: Kotaku

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Niantic Launches a US National Parks Initiative

The power of Niantic’s mobile AR games like Pokemon GO is already being leveraged into things like local community outreach, and now that same draw is hoping to bring more players to visit national parks across the United States with a Rivers and Trails promotion.

rivers and trails promotion

The initiative is tied to the 50th anniversary of the National Trails and Wild & Scenic Rivers acts signed by President Lyndon Johnson on October 2nd, 1968. The goal of this campaign is to “collectively visit the thousands of trails across the U.S. and more than 12,000 miles of rivers protected by the Wild & Scenic Rivers System.”

Players of Niantic’s games are encouraged to visit one of these locations between now and December 31st, then either send Niantic a postcard of their excursion or make a post on Instagram. Those who participate in the event will receive a special merit patch and a personalized note from Niantic. Additionally, Niantic will donate $5 to the National Park Foundation for every postcard or Instagram post received, up to a total of $100,000.

The campaign, perhaps rather obviously, is only for those in the US and its territories. More information and an FAQ can be found here.

Our Thoughts

Though the rewards for partaking in this event don’t exactly strike us as astonishing, we really can’t pour cold water on the idea behind this campaign or sneer at the possibility of the National Park Foundation getting a nice, healthy donation. Here’s hoping those who join in have an awesome time.

Source: Niantic website via Engadget

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Pokemon GO Being Leveraged for Local Community Events

We already know that Pokemon GO gets people up and walking about, but what if that gameplay hook were used to help local events and communities? That’s the idea behind the Niantic/Knight Fellows Program, a combined effort of PoGo developer Niantic and the Knight Foundation to get people involved in their local community.

niantic/knight fellows program

The Niantic/Knight Fellows Program hopes that using AR games like Pokemon GO in a variety of Knight Foundation-hosted events will get people exploring local cultural locations and become more involved with one another. The program currently has five members on board: Ming-Chun Lee from Charlotte, North Carolina; Roger Riddle from Akron, Ohio; Joey Allen from Macon, Georgia; Christopher Foreman from Philadelphia; and Collin Fraum from Palm Beach, Florida.

The program has already had some success in Akron, with Pokemon GO Lures already used in local events like music and art festivals and walking events. According to Niantic, the program helped draw in 1,000 players and encouraged them to explore Akron’s neighborhoods.

The program is set to run for approximately six months and will include a variety of similar local events, like a walking event in Macon, Georgia on October 7th and an event in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 30th.

Our Thoughts

We’d love to see a program like this expand significantly because Pokemon GO’s feature set definitely favors those who manage to find one another nowadays. Meeting more players to trade and add to friend lists while enjoying local events and neighborhoods sounds like an overall win-win situation to us.

Source: PocketGamer via LinkedIn

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Niantic Obtains Escher Reality for ‘Planet Scale AR’

Looks like Niantic has nommed another small company in its bid to do…something. An announcement of a new Niantic augmented reality acquisition has been unveiled – an acquisition that is supposed to have “planet scale” implications. If one takes it at face value, anyway.

niantic augmented reality acquisition

Escher Reality, a company that was described on its website as a developer of “the most advanced augmented reality API”, has been picked up by the Pokemon GO developer for help in building “persistent, cross platform, multi-user experiences”.

“The addition of the Escher AR technology is incredibly exciting to us at Niantic as it significantly accelerates our work on persistent, shared AR as part of the Niantic real-world application platform,” crowed the announcement.

Escher Reality’s own statement was, unsurprisingly, similarly effusive yet also vague at the same time. “The long term vision is to help to bring shared and persistent AR experiences to millions of people around the world, and further realize AR’s impact going forward,” it reads. “Ultimately, we share Niantic’s goal of enriching people’s experiences by blending the physical and the digital worlds.”

Our Thoughts

It’s all assumption at this point, but we definitely wonder if this acquisition and another in November last year are leading to some new things for the company’s existing AR games or their upcoming ones. Let the wild speculation commence!

Sources: Niantic blog, Escher Reality website

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Niantic Offers a Harry Potter: Wizards Unite Release Window

It’s not a firm release date, but a Harry Potter: Wizards Unite release window is just about as good. Unless you’re excited beyond words for the mobile AR game. In any case, Niantic’s CEO John Hanke has let at least a couple of beans spill.

wizards unite release window

Unfortunately, the release window in question is rather wide. Citing a story in the paywall-hidden Financial Times, Comicbook.com has reported that Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is eyeing a release sometime in the second half of 2018.

Hanke has promised that the rollout of Wizards will go smoother than 2016’s Pokemon GO as a result of experience. “In terms of dealing with public locations, government policy, regulations and public reaction to people being out in the real world, we have built up our expertise there,” said Hanke. The CEO is also promising that problems will be more swiftly handled this time around.

Additional details are currently unavailable, including scope of release and devices that will be supported.

Our Thoughts

We honestly weren’t really expecting this one to come out this year at all, let alone the nebulous window of 2018’s second half. While Hanke’s promises certainly nod to recognition of PoGo’s meteoric rise and fall, we’ll wait and see until things actually play out this time around.

Source: Comicbook.com via MMORPG.com

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Niantic Reveals Harry Potter: Wizards Unite Mobile AR Title

We thought that Maguss was a pretty good stand-in, but it looks like Niantic will grant us the real thing: in short, a Harry Potter mobile AR title, or perhaps more colloquially Harry Potter GO, is on the way.

harry potter mobile ar title

The actual name of the game is Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. In the initial reveal, Niantic promised players the opportunity to “learn spells, explore their real world neighborhoods and cities to discover & fight legendary beasts and team up with others to take down powerful enemies”.

“Almost five years ago Niantic launched Ingress, our first augmented reality mobile game,” opens the announcement. “Pokémon GO brought that vision to the world at unprecedented scale and served as a catalyst for the further development of the Niantic platform. We’re thrilled to partner with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and WB Games San Francisco’s development team to bring this magical and beloved series to life in a brand new way.”

A timeline for the game’s release was not part of the announcement, though the post does invite fans to follow either Niantic’s social channels or the ones created for the game itself. There’s also a new website created that lets players sign up for a newsletter.

Our Thoughts

We’re both a combination of extremely excited and highly skeptical: on the one hand, Harry Potter does feel like the kind of IP that would translate brilliantly to a mobile AR game. On the other hand, Niantic wasn’t exactly a shining star in terms of game launches and regular updates with Pokemon GO. Still, here’s hoping this game will have a smoother and more feature complete launch and will signal another benevolent epidemic.

Source: Niantic website

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