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Pokemon Go Creator Niantic Cancels Four Projects, Cuts 8% of Staff

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(Bloomberg) -- Gaming company Niantic Inc., which has struggled to find another big hit following its 2016 game Pokémon Go, canceled four projects and will cut about 85 to 90 jobs.

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In an email to staff reviewed by Bloomberg, Niantic Chief Executive Officer John Hanke wrote that the company was “facing a time of economic turmoil” and had already been “reducing costs in a variety of areas.” But Hanke said Niantic needs to “further streamline our operations in order to best position the company to weather any economic storms that may lie ahead.”

The canceled projects include Heavy Metal, a Transformers game that Niantic announced last year, and Hamlet, a collaboration between Niantic and Punchdrunk, the theatrical company behind the popular interactive play Sleep No More. The other two projects were called Blue Sky and Snowball.

San Francisco-based Niantic, founded in 2010, is best known for making augmented-reality-style games that blend digital interfaces with real images as captured by players’ cameras. In 2016 the company released Pokémon Go, which became a cultural phenomenon, with more than one billion downloads and revenue of more than $1 billion per year, according to Sensor Tower estimates.

But Niantic has been unable to replicate that success. In 2019 it launched Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, which failed to find an audience and shut down earlier this year. Games based on the board game Catan and the Nintendo series Pikmin were also unsuccessful.

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

On Tuesday, Niantic announced that it’s partnering with the National Basketball Association for a game called NBA All-World, where “players can find, challenge, and compete against today’s NBA ballers in their neighborhoods.” The Niantic spokesperson said the company will continue to work on that game, Pokémon Go and several others.

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