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Roger Lee, Brandon Gleklen  |  June 21, 2019
The Magic Under the Hood: Niantic, Harry Potter and the “Real-World Platform”

There is plenty of magic in the much-anticipated Harry Potter: Wizards Unite augmented reality (AR) game, which was publicly released today by Niantic*, Inc. and co-developed with WB Games, the latest title from the Portkey Games label.

But as investors in Niantic, we are just as impressed by the wizardry in the complex technology platform powering this game, which also underpins Niantic’s other popular titles, Ingress and Pokémon GO.

Before the release of Pokémon GO three years ago–the mobile game that prompted hundreds of millions of people to explore their world in search of imaginary creatures—most mobile games were limited to the confines of small screens. Pokémon GO fundamentally changed the mobile landscape by bringing the game experience out of the phone and into the real world. As many players of that game have discovered, it can be much more fun to have your phone enhance the real world instead of just reflecting it, and play games that guide you to venture outside, explore, and meet new people—and, in the case of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, discover the magic around you.

But this type of real-world, AR gaming requires technology that enables massive scale–the ability of millions of users around the globe to play the game concurrently, all interacting in a single, real-time simulation. This requires real magic under the hood, including fundamental innovations in networking and distributed cloud architecture. Niantic calls this underlying technology the Niantic Real World Platform, and it’s been turbo-charged since the release of Pokémon GO.

The platform combines a global-scale, persistent state engine; low-latency, advanced AR; geolocation data; and other features that are bringing AR experiences past the uncanny valley and into the mainstream. Specifically:

  • The platform is built with extensibility in mind, so more creators can build on it. This results in a greater diversity of experiences created and compels more people to engage with the real world through augmented reality.
  • Real-world experiences are only as compelling as the environments in which they exist. To that end Niantic has millions of curated areas of interest around the world, along with elements like real-time weather data that can be used to build more-lifelike AR experiences.
  • All of these features sit on top of highly available, scalable, and performant infrastructure with multiple layers of redundancy so that no matter where a user is in the world, they know they will have a high-quality experience.

None of this is vaporware – it underpins the shipped product today and serves as the backbone of games played by hundreds of millions of concurrent users. The Niantic Real World Platform represents eight years of development for consumer AR application beginning with its AR game Ingress. Designed as an operating system bridging the physical and digital worlds, it is proven to work at a massive scale.

Pokémon GO Fest 2019

Niantic is also beginning to open up its platform to outside developers (you can learn more here), meaning that any creator can build their own AR experiences on the foundation Niantic has already built. The Niantic Real World Platform unlocks massive scalability and simulation for creators of all sizes with big ideas. In fact, Niantic is currently running its first Beyond Reality Developer contest, where 10 development teams are using Niantic’s platform today. Solving the hard problems and making this kind of technology available to all creators unlocks the potential for AR as a true new medium of compute.

The transformative consumer experiences of the past decade–whether ridesharing, music streaming or catching Pokémon by your house–are designed to feel effortless. But at the core of each of these is profound technical innovation. We believe Niantic will empower the next wave of innovative companies by creating and delivering its Real World Platform.

Science fiction writer Arthur Clarke famously once declared that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” We think that’s definitely true of the tech platform underlying Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. Play the game. Dive into the magical world of Harry Potter, and we hope it inspires you to build your own.


This material is provided for informational purposes, and it is not, and may not be relied on in any manner as, legal, tax or investment advice or as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy an interest in any fund or investment vehicle managed by Battery Ventures or any other Battery entity. 

The information and data are as of the publication date unless otherwise noted.

Content obtained from third-party sources, although believed to be reliable, has not been independently verified as to its accuracy or completeness and cannot be guaranteed. Battery Ventures has no obligation to update, modify or amend the content of this post nor notify its readers in the event that any information, opinion, projection, forecast or estimate included, changes or subsequently becomes inaccurate.

The information above may contain projections or other forward-looking statements regarding future events or expectations. Predictions, opinions and other information discussed in this video are subject to change continually and without notice of any kind and may no longer be true after the date indicated. Battery Ventures assumes no duty to and does not undertake to update forward-looking statements.

*Denotes a Battery portfolio company. For a full list of all Battery investments, please click here.

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