The primary business model of Niantic is via in-game purchases in its ubiquitously popular game titles. According to a Sensor Tower report, Pokémon GO itself made Niantic over US$5 billion in the past 5 years since its launch in 2016. The rate of revenue at more than US$1 billion each year makes Pokémon GO one of the most successful and lucrative games ever.
In fact, the Lightship ARDK platform is also the underlying AR and location-based metaverse technology behind the numerous massively played game titles such as Pokémon GO, as well as Ingress Prime and Pikmin Bloom.
By releasing the Lightship ARDK publicly, Niantic hopes to accelerate the development and proliferation of next-generation advanced augmented reality applications by third-party application developers as well as consumer brands looking to strengthen brand awareness through the gamification approach.
Through the Lightship platform, developers will be able to create AR applications that permit persistent, shared views of the real world. Within the shared contextual view, users or players can plant and situate (geocache) virtual content anywhere that can be discovered, shared and experienced by other users and players. This will be akin to virtual scavenger hunts that can take place locally, regionally or even potentially at the scale of the entire globe.
For example, a global brand company can build upon Lightship's capabilities to stage an AR campaign to launch a new product X, where consumers can hunt and collect virtual parts of product X at places near their retail outlets. If consumers have collected enough parts that can be assembled to form the complete product X, they can then unlock perks such as priority queue numbers to purchase product X or certain attractive discounts.
We’re building a future where the real world is overlaid with digital creations, entertainment and information, making it more magical, fun and informative
To realize and accelerate the vision of the "Real-world Metaverse" and expand the development, marketing and adoption of the Lightship platform, Niantic has raised $300 million from hedge fund Coatue at a valuation of $9 billion The company was also previously valued at $4 billion in 2019, when it raised US$245 million from a Series C funding round led by venture capital firm IVP.
This fresh capital places Niantic as a serious contender in the red-hot metaverse space, triggered partially by Facebook's change of name to Meta. Since then, the metaverse buzzword has taken on a new life, since its previous spark of life 15 years ago when virtual worlds, such as Second Life, There.com and Google Lively popularized the metaverse scene.