‘Pokémon Go’ Developer Niantic Laying Off 8% of Staff, Nixes Transformers Game and Other Projects

Niantic - Pokemon Go
Courtesy of Niantic

Niantic, the augmented-reality games company behind “Pokémon Go,” is letting go about 8% of its workforce and has scrapped several game titles it had in development, including “Transformers: Heavy Metal.”

The company is laying off 85-90 employees, Niantic CEO John Hanke said in a memo to staff Wednesday, which was first reported by Bloomberg. Niantic needs to “further streamline our operations in order to best position the company to weather any economic storms that may lie ahead,” Hanke wrote.

In a statement, a Niantic spokesperson said, “We recently decided to stop production on some projects and reduce our workforce by about 8% to focus on our key priorities. We are grateful for the contributions of those leaving Niantic and we are supporting them through this difficult transition.”

The rep continued, “This means we can focus on our most important priorities, including ‘Pokémon Go’ and a select set of new experiences, as well as the Lightship platform [a toolset for building AR experiences]. This increased focus, as well our strong core business, puts us in a position to weather the broader economic uncertainty many companies are facing and continue investing in the future of AR.”

“Transformers: Heavy Metal,” which Niantic announced last year in a pact with Hasbro, was going to use the same AR tech that powers “Pokémon Go” to let players use their smartphones to battle the transforming autonomous robots. Niantic also axed three other games that were in development, “Hamlet,” “Blue Sky” and “Snowball.”

Niantic, which spun out of Google in 2015, also was the developer and publisher of “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” under a pact with Warner Bros. Entertainment and Warner Bros. Games. That game, which debuted in 2019, shut down earlier this year.

Niantic’s latest project, announced Tuesday, is “NBA All-World,” an upcoming real-world sports game, which lets users play one-on-one against “the best players in the world.” The free-to-play geolocation basketball game will let players “find, challenge and compete against today’s NBA ballers in their neighborhoods, then recruit them to their team before proving themselves on the court,” according to a press release from Niantic and the NBA.

VIP+ Analysis: For Some in Media, It’s the Calm Before the Crash