Pokemon Go’s Niantic might be exploring NFT and crypto-infused AR games

Et tu, Hanke?


We’ve noted before that Niantic leadership is heroically awful at reading the freaking room on a number of matters, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that CEO John Hanke is looking in the direction of web3, crypto, and NFT gaming.

This revelation was part of Hanke’s address during Niantic’s Lightship Summit (the same one that unveiled plans for an AR social media app and an AR gamedev toolkit), when Hanke recalled meeting folks from SpotX Games, a self-described “web3 innovation studio for the real-world metaverse” that is concepting a crypto-based scavenger hunt game where players visit locations in a city, interact with them through an AR app on their phones, and generate an NFT to highlight the location, all for a chance at a cash prize.

“When we met them they started talking about using blockchain as a way to inspire people to go outside, discover new places, have fun with friends,” Hanke said during the Summit’s keynote. “It was kind of like we were talking to ourselves.”

Follow-up interview questions with Hanke about this web3 integration reveal that he is pining for a “spirit and vision that was there when [the internet] started” and that web3 is the way to achieve this decentralization, arguing that the tech can provide similar features to having a Google or Facebook account without as much personal data required. As for how NFTs in video gaming are beneficial, Hanke said in that same interview that NFTs “let players reward creators more directly, with middlemen taking a much smaller cut than before, and that people love to back independent projects.”

All of Niantic’s plans for crypto, NFTs, and web3 all sound extremely tenuous and exploratory for the most part, but at the same time Niantic did acquire SpotX Games this week, so there is clearly a lot of pursuit of this space in the books.

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