Nintendo said on Tuesday it is partnering with Pokemon Go app developer Niantic to create augmented reality (AR) titles, with a Pikmin-themed app launching this year.
The partnership could breathe life into Nintendo’s stalled mobile ambitions after the firm struggled to replicate the appeal of Pokemon Go, which became a social phenomenon as gamers spilled onto the streets to “catch” Pokemon using their phones.
The first mobile adaptation of the long-running Pikmin franchise, in which users direct hordes of plant-like Pikmin creatures to complete puzzles, is being developed by Niantic’s Tokyo studio, which was set up in 2018.
“Niantic’s AR technology has made it possible for us to experience the world as if Pikmin are secretly living all around us,” veteran Nintendo games creator Shigeru Miyamoto said in a statement.
The app “will make walking more fun with Pikmin. It’s going to be very different from Pokemon Go,” Tatsuo Nomura, head of Niantic’s Tokyo studio wrote in a Twitter post.
Nintendo’s mobile releases have underperformed and lagged the timeframe outlined by management. Unusual Nintendo-backed apps with elements of play include toothbrushing app Pokemon Smile and upcoming sleep tracking app Pokemon Sleep.
The Pikmin app is unlikely to “set the world on fire as Pokemon did. Every grandparent knows Pokemon, but only gamers know Pikmin,” said Serkan Toto, founder of game industry consultancy Kantan Games.
San Francisco-based Niantic launched a Harry Potter-themed app in 2019 but it has not reached the heights of Pokemon Go, which was developed with Nintendo affiliate The Pokemon Company and left Nintendo with only a small proportion of revenue.
The Kyoto-based gaming firm’s efforts to expand outside console gaming were boosted last week by the belated opening of the Super Nintendo World area at Osaka’s Universal Studios Japan theme park.