Pokémon Go developer Niantic applying AR to Nintendo’s Pikmin on mobile devices

Nintendo fans who enjoyed Niantic’s Pokémon Go have a new AR-based game to play: Pikmin Bloom. The game, which is free to download on both iOS and Android, utilizes the same real-world AR technology to bring Shigeru Miyamoto’s little creatures into people’s favorite locations. Players can plant Pikmin, which then grow while the player walks around, and then the Pikmin can be plucked.

Unlike Pokémon Go, which can have a competitive gameplay style, Pikmin Bloom is meant to be more collaborative. Players can plant gardens with others and earn rewards by taking on challenges cooperatively. Simply walking around leaves a trail of blooming flowers, which can make daily commutes far less mundane – walking also provides a player’s Pikmin with an opportunity to collect items.

When Miyamoto first envisioned Pikmin while observing ants in his garden, he wondered why video games so often involved competition. Eschewing violence and encouraging cooperation has always aligned with Nintendo’s family values. That said, Pikmin is far more niche than a mainstream franchise like Pokémon. Whether the location-based formula that worked so well for Pokémon Go will produce similar results for Pikmin Bloom remains to be seen. Pokémon Go managed to surpass $1 billion in revenues in 2020, so it’s a tall order for Bloom.

The good news for Nintendo and Niantic is that the Nintendo audience over-indexes on AR or location-based gaming compared to the general gaming population. According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, 11% of Nintendo Switch owners have played an AR or location-based game in the past three months compared to just 7% of all gamers.

For Niantic, the release of Bloom allows the company to gain more real-world feedback on AR gaming as it steers the company towards an AR-based metaverse. To that end, Niantic has started licensing its Lightship AR development kit and launched a $20 million fund to “invest in companies building applications that share our vision for the real-world metaverse and contribute to the global ecosystem we are building.”