Here’s why the creator of ‘Pokémon Go’ just acquired London game studio Sensible Object
- Niantic, the company behind “Pokémon Go,” has acquired London startup Sensible Object to form a new London-based game studio called Niantic London.
- Sensible Object creates connected board games such as “Beasts of Balance,” and the company’s roots lie in mixing real-world play with digital experiences.
- Sensible Object will maintain its own products for now, but will eventually create new augmented reality games like “Pokémon Go” and even Pokémon Go Fest-style live events.
- The acquisition comes after Niantic bought LA-based game studio Seismic Games last year, and opened its augmented reality platform to game developers.
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Niantic, the creator of “Pokémon Go,” has acquired UK game studio Sensible Object for an undisclosed amount.
Sensible Object will remain based in London and form Niantic’s London arm. The company will continue with its own products for the time being, but will eventually focus on building new games on Niantic’s open augmented reality platform.
Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed. Sensible Object chief executive Alex Fleetwood told Business Insider that his firm had been looking to raise another round of venture capital, or for an acquirer, prior to the deal.
Sensible Object sells connected board games, such as “Beasts of Balance,” in an effort to make analogue, tabletop games more appealing to a smartphone-obsessed audience.
But the reason for the Niantic acquisition lies as much in the company’s prior history as in its current experience making games. Fleetwood was previously a founding director at Hide&Seek, a pioneering creative game studio that mixed real-world play with digital games.
Hide&Seek shut down in 2014 but Niantic’s CEO, John Hanke, was already taking an interest in the crossover between the real world and screen-based games and got to know Fleetwood and his work. The same thinking would inform Niantic’s monster hit, “Pokémon Go,” when it arrived in 2016.
“I’m pretty confident he’s the only CEO of a unicorn startup who has awareness of that kind of work,” Fleetwood said of John Hanke. “We’d met a couple of times. When we were looking at what Sensible Object’s route was in terms of another fundraise, or M&A, we reached out to him to get some advice, and that kicked off an acquisition discussion.”
According to Fleetwood, Niantic wants to build out the number of game studios developing on its AR platform after buying LA-based Seismic Games. The firm is also encouraging developers to build games on its platform.
“Bringing in studios around the world like us means we’re going to be using that platform, getting to grips with it, and accelerating the process of making that platform ready for more generalized use cases outside Niantic’s core team,” Fleetwood said.
His experience running play-focused events is also likely to come in handy. “A big strand of how Niantic make ‘Pokémon Go’ successful was large-scale events in Dortmund and Chicago,” he said. “Nothing on that scale has run in the UK, but it aligns closely with the work we did at Hide&Seek. It’s something we’re really interested in developing as part of the range of activities.”