We’ve captured much of Niantic’s ongoing story in the first three parts of our EC-1, from its beginnings as an “entrepreneurial lab” within Google, to its spin-out as an independent company and the launch of Pokémon GO, to its ongoing focus on becoming a platform for others to build augmented reality products upon.
It’s not an origin story that serves as an easily replicable blueprint — but if we zoom out a bit, what’s to be learned?
A few key themes stuck with me as I researched Niantic’s story so far. Some of them – like the challenges involved with moving millions of users around the real world – are unique to this new augmented reality that Niantic is helping to create. Others – like that scaling is damned hard – are well-understood startup norms, but interesting to see from the perspective of an experienced team dealing with a product launch that went from zero to 100 real quick.
- Build on top of what works best
- AR alone doesn’t make a hit game
- Ship the MVP, but have the roadmap ready
- Scaling is hard, even when you’ve done it before
- As your userbase grows, so do your responsibilities
- Visual designs can have growing pains too
- Social features can be useful for more than just growth
- Get users rolling as fast as possible
- Communication keeps users happy
The reading time for this article is 21 minutes (5,125 words).
Build on top of what works best
Everything Niantic has built so far is an evolution of what the team had built before it. Each major step on Niantic’s path has a clear footprint that precedes it; a chunk of DNA that proved advantageous, and is carried along into the next thing.
Looking back, it’s a cycle we can see play out on repeat: build a thing, identify what works about it, trim the extra bits, then build a new thing from that foundation.