A few days ago Google announced a pretty huge shakeup. A new holdings company named Alphabet has been created and a bunch non-core Google teams would be spun off into separate subsidiaries under the “Alphabet” umbrella, such as Google X, Calico, Google Ventures, Google Capitol, Nest Labs, and of course, Google itself. One of those teams is Niantic Labs, known for their popular Android Massive Multiplayer Online Game Ingress, and Field Trip that pointed users to interesting things based on their location, however, they will be going into the big wide world by themselves. Niantic Labs will become their own independent company without any ties to the search giant that spawned them.
Niantic Labs was an internal Google startup that was formed in 2010, but at heart it existed in a different form before being acquired by Google. John Hanke, the founder of Niantic Labs, was the co-founder of a company called Keyhole inc. Keyhole was purchased by Google in 2004, bringing Hanke with it. One of the projects they were making was called “Earth Viewer.” This later became the hugely popular application, Google Earth. Keyhole’s technology has also found its way into other core Google services like Google Maps, Google Mobile, Google Street View and the Keyhole Markup Language. The details outlining why Niantic is leaving the Alphabet camp have not surfaced yet.
No details about what will happen to the incredibly popular MMO game have been provided yet, but some users have expressed concern that Niantic Labs may begin charging for the privilege of playing the augmented reality smartphone favorite. No doubt Niantic Labs is banking on the continued popularity of Ingress, which has been downloaded more than 12 million times since being released in a closed beta form in November 2012, and general release in December of 2013. Ingress was even ported to Apple’s iOS in January of 2014. With that kind of popularity Niantic Labs and Ingress will bring with them a healthy user base, but they will have to find some way to monetize in order to survive, but at this point it is only speculation that they may begin charging to play the game. No doubt, as more information is made available concerning the new Alphabet machine, we will continue to be surprised.