Pikmin Bloom, a new Niantic Nintendo game, is out now

After the runaway success of Pokémon Go, Niantic’s subsequent AR smartphone sport based mostly on a Nintendo property will attempt to be a little calmer.

At the moment, the 2 firms are launching Pikmin Bloom on iOS and Android, based mostly on an offbeat sequence of video games for Nintendo consoles. Whereas Pokémon Go requested gamers to spherical up the sport’s eponymous monsters at real-world hotspots, Pikmin Bloom is a extra passive affair, during which gamers can develop plant-like Pikmin creatures each time they go on a stroll.

It’s the results of a three-year collaboration between Niantic and Nintendo, and an instance of how Niantic desires to filter the world by the lens of augmented actuality. As an alternative of making an attempt to create digital realities as Fb, Epic Video games, and Roblox are doing, Niantic thinks video games like Pikmin Bloom could make the bodily world barely extra nice.

[Image: courtesy of Ninantic]

“It’s about placing issues on the planet that give it a sure taste, a sure really feel,” says John Hanke, Niantic’s founder and CEO. “And I believe Pikmin’s a nice instance of that.”

Why Niantic picked Pikmin

Amongst all of the Nintendo properties that Niantic might have used for its newest sport, Pikmin isn’t an apparent alternative.

Whereas the sequence has developed a modest fanbase for the reason that unique Pikmin launched on the Nintendo GameCube in 2001, it’s by no means loved the massive mainstream attraction of The Legend of Zelda, Animal Crossing, or any sport starring Mario. The Pikmin console video games may be fairly hectic, with gamers having to strategize the right way to finest harness their Pikmin for resource-gathering whereas avoiding hazards and contending with a ticking clock.

i Flower planting
[Image: courtesy of Ninantic]

Nonetheless, Niantic gravitated towards Pikmin because it mentioned potential sport concepts with Nintendo. Madoka Katayama, the director of UX design at Niantic Tokyo, says the studio knew early on that it needed to construct a sport round every day walks and life logging. The Pikmin creatures, who emerge from the bottom sprouting flowers on their heads and rallying across the participant, appeared like a pure match.

“We beloved the idea round Pikmin, how they construct issues for you, they accumulate issues for you, and felt like that labored very well with Niantic’s rules and imaginative and prescient,” Katayama says.

In comparison with the console video games, Pikmin Bloom is decidedly extra relaxed. Whereas taking a stroll, gamers can view a map of their environment and search for seedlings that sprout into Pikmin over time. The little characters will then observe the participant round and ship objects, and gamers can nurture the Pikmin by feeding them nectar. Ultimately, they’ll sprout flowers on their heads, dropping pedals that flip into flower gardens for all different gamers to see.

Some parts of the sport will nonetheless be paying homage to Pokémon Go, which challenged gamers to hunt out uncommon Pokémon and compete with others. Gamers will sometimes see alternatives to collect particular Pikmin that aren’t on their strolling path, and Niantic plans to carry group occasions the place gamers can collect and develop flower gardens collectively. (The monetization scheme can even be related, with gamers capable of purchase seeds and planters to develop Pikmin quicker, and Niantic hasn’t dominated out promoting as a future chance.)

However for probably the most half, the sport can be centered on reaping the rewards of taking extra walks. The method of strolling is what permits the Pikmin characters to develop, and on the finish of every jaunt, gamers can view a step rely together with a map of their route. They’ll additionally have the ability to take every day notes with textual content and pictures, and ship Pikmin-themed “postcards” to pals with pictures they’ve snapped all through the day.

“We actually needed to make it possible for this was one thing that was not simply fascinating for avid gamers, but in addition for non-gamers as properly,” Katayama says.

Rising the viewers

The low-key nature of Pikmin Bloom—and the franchise’s obscurity relative to Pokémon—means it’s unlikely to trigger the type of frenzy that led to 500 million Pokémon Go downloads inside its first few months of launch. But, there’s a sense that the venture feeds into broader objectives for each firms.

i Feeding Nectar to Pikmin
[Image: courtesy of Ninantic]

Hanke says Nintendo was far more concerned in creating Pikmin Bloom than it was with Pokémon Go, which was a three-way collaboration between Niantic, Nintendo, and The Pokémon Firm. Whereas Niantic dealt with all the sport design on the latter, this time Nintendo formed each the core sport mechanics and the character design. Even Shigeru Miyamoto, who created the Pikmin sequence—and, extra notably, classics like Tremendous Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda—offered enter.

So for Nintendo, maybe Pikmin Bloom is a probability to reframe a Miyamoto franchise that by no means bought a lot love. Hanke notes that the 2 firms grew to become “collectively excited” about making a new Pikmin sport due to the way it match into Niantic’s strolling companion idea, and that of all Nintendo’s contributions, its consideration to the characters stood out.

“I believe characters, and character design, and the significance of creating the characters themselves so innately interesting, can’t be underestimated,” Hanke says. “I believe they’re masters at that.”

As for Niantic, Pikmin Bloom is an try to ascertain a new model of augmented sport. Pokémon Go largely took after Niantic’s first sport, Ingress, and 2019’s Harry Potter: Wizards Unite adopted a related mould. (The Potter sport was additionally criticized for its lack of unique gameplay and stalled out shortly after launch, whereas Pokémon Go is nonetheless common.)

As an alternative of making one other hyper-competitive location-based sport, Pikmin Bloom is making an attempt to be augmented actuality leisure for everybody. It’s a means, Henke says, for individuals to “embellish the world” with digital objects, reasonably than a fixed distraction.

“It’s particularly designed with the intention to take note of it a little bit, after which put it in your pocket,” he says.

Whether or not that concept will resonate with a giant variety of gamers is nonetheless untested, particularly with out the naturally addictive hook of catching Pokémon out within the wild. However very similar to the Pikmin themselves, Hanke believes the viewers will develop naturally over time.

“I believe it can discover an viewers that may make us comfortable,” he says.