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Pokémon Go studio cancels four titles, including its Transformers game

Niantic, the hitmaker behind Pokémon Go and Pikmin Bloom, is buckling up for some hard times. The company announced it has canceled the production of four games and laid off 8% of its staff.

According to a report from Bloomberg, Niantic CEO John Hanke wrote a companywide email saying that around 85 to 90 employees were getting laid off. Hanke explained that the company has been “facing a time of economic turmoil” and has resorted to “reducing costs in a variety of areas.” That meant canceling four games, including Transformers game, Heavy Metal, and Hamlet.

Niantic announced Heavy Metal last year as a collaborative AR project with Hasbro and Tomy. Hamlet was announced in 2020 and was being produced in collaboration with Punchdrunk, the New York-based theatrical company behind the interactive play Sleep No More. The last two projects that got canned were codenamed Snowball and Blue Sky.

News of Niantic canceling projects and issuing layoffs came as a shock to fans, considering how Pokémon Go has been the most lucrative and popular for the second half of the company’s 12-year history. According to mobile analytics group Sensor Tower, Pokemon Go raked in an electrifying $6 billion in global lifetime revenue — that’s $1 billion a year. Its latest estimate shows that the game brought in $198 million during Q1 2022.

Meanwhile, Pikmin Bloom launched last year, and it only managed to make $5 million in revenue, making only $2 million in Q1 2022. The game didn’t gain as much traction as Pokémon Go did. Neither did Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, which was forced to shut down in January because of a low user base, despite it making $12 million when it launched in June 2019.

The layoffs and game cancellations come just one day after Niantic announced its partnership with the NBA to develop NBA All-World, the organization’s first official immersive AR game that encourages players to find other basketball fans to play against and recruit on their teams. That game is set to launch during the 2022-23 NBA season.

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