The definitive Niantic reading guide

In just a few years, Niantic has evolved from internal side project into an independent industry trailblazer. Having reached tremendous scale in such a short period of time, Niantic acts as a poignant crash course for founders and company builders. As our EC-1 deep-dive into the company shows, lessons from the team’s experience building the Niantic’s product offering remain just as fresh as painful flashbacks to the problems encountered along the way.

As we did for our Patreon EC-1, we’ve poured through every analysis we could find on Niantic and have compiled a supplemental list of resources and readings that are particularly useful for getting up to speed on the company.

Reading time for this article is about 9.5 minutes. It is part of the Extra Crunch EC-1 on Niantic. Feature illustration by Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch.

I. Background: The Story of Niantic

Google-Incubated Niantic, Maker of Ingress, Stepping Out on Its Own | August 2015 | In August of 2015, Niantic announced that it would spin out from Google and become an independent company. As discussed in WSJ’s coverage of the news, Niantic looked at the spin out as a way to accelerate growth and collaborate with the broader entertainment ecosystem.

Razer soups up its gaming smartphone

Razer is quick to refute any suggestions that its second phone is little more than an iterative update. Sure, the thing looks remarkably identical to its predecessor from the front, but the innards are certainly souped up — and there’s a snazzy new back to match.

As the company puts in the Razer Phone 2 press materials, “we wanted to keep the core Razer industrial design intact with a CNC aluminum frame flanked by powerful dual front-firing stereo speakers.”

Fair enough. The first Razer Phone wasn’t the prettiest handset on the market, but that was never the point. The gaming peripheral company entered the mobile market with one very clear motive in mind: helping usher in a new age of serious smartphone gaming. It follows, then, that the Razer Phone 2 sports some beefy specs to match.

Razer’s not quite at the point in its mobile story where custom silicon makes sense, so the company’s relying on the the latest Snapdragon (845), instead. What is custom, however, is the vapor-chamber cooling system inside, which dissipates surface heat for intense game play. In all, the company says it’s able to eke out a 30 percent bump in performance over gen one. 

The battery is the same size, at a still impressive 4,000mAh — though this time coupled with Qi for fast wireless charging. It’s a beefy battery in a beefy phone. It’s not the slickest design out there, compared to flagships by Apple and Samsung, but it’s built like a damn tank. It’s also IP67 rated water-resistant and dust proof. 

As mentioned above, the front-facing speakers are still intact from the first generation, and they can get plenty loud, as evidenced by the demo Razer gave us ahead of today’s event. Those are tuned with Dolby Atmos. 

At 5.7 inches, the screen is the same size as the first generation. I’m a bit surprised the company didn’t go a bit larger this generation — gaming is one of the stronger arguments for large screens on mobile devices. That said, Razer’s increased the brightness by half and improved color accuracy.

While, as expected, the front looks pretty much exactly like the first gen’s, the back’s been souped up a bit. The familiar tri-headed snake logo lights up now, with 16.8 million color options. There are different settings for the light, including the ability to have it light up with notifications based on different apps — so, light blue for Twitter, red for Gmail. You get the picture.

Of course, having a light-up logo on the back would be silly, so the company’s created a case with a cutout, specifically to showcase the new lighting rig.

Razer’s managed to maintain a decent price point here. At $799, it’s not cheap, but it’s a couple hundred bucks below the latest from Apple and Samsung. Preorders start tomorrow.

Game publisher GameMine inks a $20 million partnership with South Africa’s Vodacom

 On the heels of a $20 million funding round last month, the new game publishing company GameMine has inked its first big deal with a global carrier. The company has partnered with the South Africa mobile carrier Vodacom Group to bring GameMine’s subscription-based mobile games to the South African market. Read More

What do E3 attendees think of mobile gaming?

 The smartphone has changed the gaming industry landscape dramatically. As our pocket computers advance, so too does the possibility of fully satisfying mobilegaming experiences. Companies like Nintendo are blurring the lines between portable and console/PC gaming with the Switch. At the same time, big studios have largely moved away from attempts to integrate mobile content into the home… Read More

Super Mario Run sees 37 million downloads, $14 million in revenue in first 3 days

super-mario-run Nintendo’s investors haven’t been happy with the performance of the new iPhone game, “Super Mario Run,” which has led to falling share prices over concerns with the game’s payment model. However, the game has still eked out a respectable share of downloads and revenue, according to new data from app intelligence firm App Annie. Looking back at the game’s… Read More

Is VR a leap back in time for the games industry?

gettyimages-462976831 When we look back through the annals of time, there, etched in the history books will be “2016: The year of VR.” And what a year it’s been. We’ve already seen the Samsung VR launch to great applause, but with the imminent release of the PlayStation VR and Oculus Rift devices, the sector is about to shift into overdrive. But VR is not exactly new — the concept has… Read More

Nintendo’s Miitomo for iOS tops Japan’s App Store in less than two days

Miitomo is a communication tool with plenty of distractions.

For years, industry watchers speculated that Nintendo could rule mobile if it would only make games for smartphones and tablets. And based on how well Miitomo has done in its first week in Japan, we know have proof that the storied Japanese gaming company is primed to succeed on mobile worldwide.

Miitomo hit No. 1 on all categories (not just games) for free iOS apps in Japan today, app marketing intelligence firm Sensortower told GamesBeat. It’s tracking Miitomo on its own platform, and the data comes from Japan’s Apple store. Mobile gaming is a $34.8 billion industry worldwide, and $6 billion of this comes from Japan. Nintendo has struggled with its Wii U home console, and sales of its aging 3DS handheld have been tailing off.

This social game knocked GungHo Online Entertainment’s Pazudora Radar from the top spot. That game is a riff on Puzzle & Dragons, itself one of the most profitable games on the Japanese mobile market.

Miitomo isn’t in the U.S. app store yet, but GamesBeat did download it from Japan on Android and give it a spin, as it already has an option to play in English. The big thing about Miitomo is that it is essentially Facebook or Twitter by way of Nintendo. If we lived in a universe where the same company that invented Mario also invented social networks, Miitomo is what we’d get.

You start by creating or linking Miitomo to your My Nintendo account, which is the publisher’s new network service that will also appear on its console devices. You can then either make your Mii or import it from your 3DS or Wii U using the QR-code feature. After that, you’ll want to find some friends by linking Twitter or Facebook to the game.

According to Sensortower, apps that usually hit No. 1 in Japan receive more than 100,000 downloads a day.

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Google Play gets ‘Indie Corner’ to promote games from smaller studios

The Room is one of the more popular "indie" games on mobile.

SAN FRANCISCO — Remember when your teacher made you sit in the corner after you did something bad and you would spend all that time thinking up crazy ideas for video games? Well, Google is bringing that feature to its Android app market … sorta.

Indie Corner is a new feature in the Google Play store that promotes more games from smaller studios. The company announced this initiative during its event as part of the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The idea behind indie corner is to bring more attention to games from independent studios by maintaining an ever-present vertical inside of Google Play that is always showing cool new games from those companies. To take part, developers need to submit their game to Google for review. This could help some smaller studios get a piece of the $34.8 billion mobile gaming market while also giving Android more cachet with a core gaming audience that sees iOS as a far superior platform thanks to its history of support from developers.

GamesBeat asked Google how it defines an “indie game,” and the company laid out some of the criteria it is using.

“It has to be a relatively small company,” Google Play spokesperson Joshua Cruz told GamesBeat. “We think 11 to 15 employees — something along those lines. And then it’s the type of game. Is trying to do something creative or different stylistically.”

The term “indie” has taken on a nebulous meaning over the last 10 years as it seems to have more to do with what the end product looks and plays like than whether or not the studio responsible for the game is actually independently owned. And, technically, Valve — owner and operator of Steam — is independent. But Google recognizes that the term is strange, which is why it hasn’t built an algorithm to figure out what to include in Indie Corner.

“Ultimately, it’s going to be assessed by humans,” said Cruz. “They’ll make the call.”

And while Google wants great games, it also made it clear that it doesn’t hurt if a potential Indie Corner game exemplifies all of the services available to Google Play developers.

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