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Nintendo, Google to Invest up to $30 Million in Niantic, Maker of Mobile Pokémon Game

Some unusual investors for an unusual video game.

Pokémon Go

Niantic Labs, formerly a part of Google, is making a Pokémon game for smartphones. Now the newly independent startup is taking outside funding from the folks that have made all the other Pokémon games.

Nintendo, the Pokémon Company and Google said today they’re investing $20 million in Niantic, with up to $10 million in additional funding possible if the games studio can meet performance milestones.

Niantic CEO John Hanke said conceptual work on Pokémon Go, which will let players discover and catch the titular pocket monsters by exploring the real world, started in early 2014. After Google reorganized as Alphabet and Niantic spun out on its own, Nintendo asked if it could buy in.

“They’re really excited about taking that idea out to emerging markets, where the phone may be the only piece of interactive technology that someone has access to,” Hanke said. “There’s a whole set of people around the world who are aware of Pokémon, but have never had the opportunity to play the game.”

He noted that the investors consider Pokémon Go to be the first of many games that “break out of the living room.” Niantic continues to support Ingress, a more adult-minded sci-fi game that similarly revolves around its players traveling from place to place in the real world.

Hanke said he expected all of the things the company has learned from Ingress to appear in some form in Pokémon Go. For example, the company may organize events for players of the new game to meet up and play together in the real world, similar to the Ingress events that have long driven playtime in that game. Ingress currently has monthly active players “in the seven digits,” Hanke added.

The leaders of the round were Nintendo and the Pokémon Company, which is a separate entity co-owned by Nintendo and the popular video game series’ Japanese developer, Game Freak. Google’s investment points to the fact that even as an independent company, Niantic has privileged access to the search giant’s mapping data, for use in its location-based games.

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