Niantic makes another acquisition, absorbing AR studio NZXR

Just a month after its last acquisition of the WebAR development platform 8th Wall, Niantic announced its purchase of New Zealand-based augmented reality studio NZXR today. These strategic acquisitions are part of Niantic’s overarching plan to build what it calls a “real-world metaverse,” which is dependent on AR rather than VR.

NZXR formed during the pandemic, when its Wellington-based team was laid off from working on Magic Leap, an AR headset for enterprise. Rather than going their separate ways, the team built their own business, working on projects like the AR skateboarding game Skatrix and the interactive theater experience Destination Mars.

According to NZXR’s own blog post, the company had collaborated with Niantic before accepting their offer of a permanent partnership, becoming part of the company behind games like Pokémon Go. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“When John Hanke, Niantic’s CEO, wrote ‘the metaverse is a dystopian nightmare it resonated with us far more than any of the metaverse hype pieces published before or since,” NZXR wrote. “A better world is not given. It’s going to take a lot of work and Niantic has demonstrated to us that they’re willing to put in the effort.”

In November, Niantic unveiled its free Lightship AR Developer Kit to make building AR experiences more accessible. Soon after, the makers of Pokémon Go and Ingress raised $300 million at a $9 billion valuation, aiming to build a “metaverse” that brings people together through shared technological experiences. This summer, Niantic is trying to make good on that promise by hosting “community days,” or meetups for people who play their AR games, in 65 countries across the world. In the meantime, it will be a challenge for Niantic to figure out how to bridge the gap between “people staring at their phones catching Pokémon in the same location” and “people actually interacting due to their shared enjoyment of an AR game.”