'Pokemon GO' Developer Niantic Launches Black Developers Initiative

The developer behind breakout augmented reality hits like Pokémon GO, Ingress and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite continues to do its part in providing opportunities for minority game-makers. As announced via the studio's Twitter account on Thursday, Niantic has launched a new endeavor aiming to provide financing, mentorship and support to Black game development teams.

"In following through with our commitment to diversity and inclusion and fostering real-world AR innovation, Niantic is proud to announce the Black Developers Initiative, a program created to help designers of games, stories and social change build new AR experiences on our platform," said company founder/CEO John Hanke in a video message.

He further revealed that additional details would be forthcoming throughout Black History Month and into the future.

Per a release on Niantic's official website, teams that are selected through the initiative will be provided with five months of funding for the development of their projects. They'll also receive executive mentorship and support from the studio's developmental leaders in an effort to bring a playable game prototype to fruition.

The goal by the end of the five-month period is for development teams to have created a playable prototype and a pitch deck for a real-world, augmented reality experience. Those selected to participate will also have the opportunity to join an established community of Niantic Early Explorers–Game Developers and Program Alumni, a network that will extend beyond the duration of the program.

As reported by Games Industry, the projects created by those selected will be required to have an AR and/or geolocation aspect, with Niantic seeking "the next innovative real-world game that encourages players to explore the world, get exercise, and connect to one another."

For the opening round of the initiative, there will be no geographical limitation, but applicants will reportedly need to be able to work and communicate in English.

Pokemon Go is played following its U.K. launch in mid-2016.
Getty Images | Olivia Harris

As noted by GI, Niantic has been active in supporting the ongoing battle for social change. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, the company pledged that a minimum of $5 million from Pokémon GO Fest sales would be divided between U.S. nonprofit organizations serving to help affected communities in rebuilding, as well as funding new projects from Black developers.

That pledge was later doubled to $10 million.

Formed in San Francisco in 2010 as an internal startup within Google, Niantic became a major player in the gaming industry with its launch of Pokémon GO in 2016. The mobile phenomenon went on to amass more than a billion downloads worldwide. In 2018, the company announced that it would be opening its Real World Platform to third-party devs.