An annotated list to everything written on Niantic to accompany our EC-1
In just a few years, Niantic has evolved from internal side project into an independent industry trailblazer. Having reached tremendous scale in such a short period of time, Niantic acts as a poignant crash course for founders and company builders. As our EC-1 deep-dive into the company shows, lessons from the team’s experience building the Niantic’s product offering remain just as fresh as painful flashbacks to the problems encountered along the way.
As we did for our Patreon EC-1, we’ve poured through every analysis we could find on Niantic and have compiled a supplemental list of resources and readings that are particularly useful for getting up to speed on the company.
Reading time for this article is about 9.5 minutes. It is part of the Extra Crunch EC-1 on Niantic. Feature illustration by Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch.
I. Background: The Story of Niantic
Google-Incubated Niantic, Maker of Ingress, Stepping Out on Its Own | August 2015 | In August of 2015, Niantic announced that it would spin out from Google and become an independent company. As discussed in WSJ’s coverage of the news, Niantic looked at the spin out as a way to accelerate growth and collaborate with the broader entertainment ecosystem.
Seemingly the sole government body policing tech platforms, the ol’ European Union, is now taking …
After a lot of hype from game makers in 2021, big publishers have been relatively quiet on the idea of integrating non-fungible tokens into their games since the collapse of Ubisoft’s “Quartz Digits” platform last year. But EA Sports this week is proving the game industry hasn’t completely abandoned the blockchain-based collectible technology, announcing a partnership with Nike’s “.Swoosh” NFT platform to let players “express their personal style through play.”
Details are still scarce, and Nike says that more information will be available “in the coming months.” But the company said in a statement that “select .Swoosh virtual creations” will “unlock brand new levels of customization within the EA SPORTS ecosystem” and provide players with “unique new opportunities for self-expression and creativity through sport and style.”
In other words, it sounds like you’ll soon be able to put your NFT Nike sneakers on your Madden team.
Why this time could be different
As skeptical as we’ve been about previous efforts to integrate NFTs into games, this partnership could avoid some of the field’s most common pitfalls. For one, Nike is already an established brand with legions of sneakerheads that follow its every move. And those fans have already shown at least some willingness to invest in digital swag bearing Nike’s iconic swoosh. The company’s first “Virtual Sneaker Drop”—featuring “digital renditions” of the company’s iconic Air Force 1 line—reached over $1 million in sales to early beta users in less than a week, according to CoinDesk.
Those NFTs might become even more valuable to Nike fans if and when they can be used to unlock digital drip in EA Sports titles. And these kinds of “real-world clothing” cosmetics also seem like items that could be relatively easy for other developers and publishers to integrate into their own games (unlike Ubisoft’s awkward, serial-numbered virtual items). That means other publishers could theoretically follow EA’s lead here, integrating support for Nike’s virtual fashions as a marketing tool targeting fashion-conscious gamers.
That could plausibly create a kind of cycle where support from more games leads to more interest in Nike’s NFTs, which in turn leads more game makers to sign on, and so on. If enough game makers start featuring those Nike collectibles, we could plausibly reach NFT bulls’ dream scenario of digital items that you buy once and use across multiple properties around the Internet.
Of course, for any of that to happen, Nike and EA will first have to get over the deep and longstanding animosity gamers have shown for any game developer that even hints at making NFTs part of its gaming plans (not to mention the wider collapse in NFT interest across multiple markets). And if the prospect of showing off Nike swag in online games can’t break through that inherent hostility, there’s a good chance nothing will.
Regardless, by leaning on Nike’s established brand—and letting it serve as a third party that markets and sells the NFTs themselves—EA Sports could avoid some of the problems other companies have faced in trying to build and sell NFT collections from scratch.
It has been only a week since Nintendo removed a number of popular The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom item-duplication glitches with the release of the game’s 1.1.2 update patch. But intrepid players have already found alternate methods for creating infinite items to build and fight to their heart’s content.
The most straightforward (if slow) new method for item duplication, as described by Kibbles Gaming, involves fusing an item to a weapon, preparing to throw that weapon, and then watching previously viewed cutscenes via the “memories” section of the Adventure Log. Each memory you view apparently advances the game’s logic by a single frame, letting you easily pinpoint the four-frame timing window where you can throw a weapon while also retaining a copy in your inventory. While this method is consistent and simple to perform (even early in the game), it can take quite a while to fill up your inventory this way.
A more efficient item duplication method requires you to purchase Link’s House near Tarry Town in the east, then place a shock emitter item near the weapon display. With good timing, you can place a weapon on that display during the same frame that the shock emitter knocks it out of your hands, thus creating two copies of the weapon (and any fused item) instantly.
While this method lets you create functionally infinite item copies quickly, it requires a lot more in-game set-up and some relatively precise timing. Other players have found that quickly removing pieces of rubber armor can help with the “shock” timing, at least.
We expect Nintendo will patch out these newly discovered item-dupe methods relatively quickly, but we don’t imagine that will stop intrepid players from finding further exploits. After all, while Nintendo released a few Breath of the Wild patches in the months after its 2017 release, players have since found plenty of exploitable glitches in that game, including one that’s strikingly similar to the latest Tears of the Kingdom item duplication exploit. One of those Breath of the Wild glitches—which even lets players duplicate rare korok seeds—was discovered as recently as early 2022, showing that there isn’t really a time limit on how long Zelda players will spend figuring out how to break these games.
Rather than engaging in this cat-and-mouse glitch-fixing fight, we still think that Nintendo should lean in and make item duplication an official part of the game. A fully supported item duplication code or separate “creative mode” would give many players the infinite, grind-free Zelda sandbox they so obviously want and deserve without ruining the carefully constructed challenges Nintendo worked so hard on.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart will be the next PlayStation Studios game to make its way to PC, Sony announced in a blog post on Tuesday. The game, which debuted in 2021, will launch on the new platform on July 26.
Although Sony has been in the habit of releasing its big PlayStation exclusives on PC long after their console debuts for a bit now, there are a couple of things that make this announcement particularly interesting.
First, this is the first Ratchet & Clank game to be released on PC—that’s after 16 home and handheld console releases since the first game was released on PlayStation 2 more than 20 years ago.
Fortunately, despite its position as the latest game in the Ratchet & Clank timeline, Rift Apart works fairly well as a standalone story. PC players who have not played the previous 15 games might miss a little inside joke, but they won’t be lost in following the story or characters. That said, it’s still wild that the 16th game in a series will be the first PC port.
More interesting to many is the technology angle. Rift Apart was made by Insomniac Games—developers of the recent Spider-Man games, the Resistance first-person shooter franchise for PlayStation 3, and the early Spyro the Dragon games in the PlayStation 1 era. After Sony’s relatively recent acquisition of Insomniac, Rift Apart was meant to be a technical showcase for the PS5.
Specifically, the game is built around the premise of moving through different dimensions and planets with completely different assets through portals without loading times, something that was only possible with the PS5’s ultra-fast SSD and related hardware. The PS5’s internal drive has a read/write speed of 5,500MB/s, far faster than most PC drives at the time of the console’s launch. Sony requires any add-on storage for the PS5 to meet that minimum speed requirement, too.
There have been PC SSDs faster than that for a bit, but they’re extremely expensive, and most people (even core gamers) even now don’t have drives that fast, so it will be interesting to see how Sony handles PCs with slower drives. Instant travel through those portals isn’t a nice bonus; it’s integral to the game’s presentation and experience, and it’s one of the reasons there was no PlayStation 4 version of Rift Apart.
Curiously, Sony didn’t touch on that subject in its blog post, even though it talked about other technical features of the game. Like the PS5 version, the PC version of Rift Apart will support ray-traced reflections, though Sony notes that there will be “a variety of quality levels to choose from.” The PC version will also get some things the PS5 didn’t: ray-traced shadows and ultra-wide monitor support. The PC version will also support Nvidia DLSS 3, AMD FSR 2, and Intel XeSS, as well as Nvidia Reflex and Nvidia DLAA. There will be full keyboard and mouse support, too, of course.
There’s a third reason we’re focusing on this game: It’s a personal favorite for a couple of Ars staffers, myself included. I’ve played every Ratchet & Clank game over the years, and the promise of a new one for PS5 was one of the main reasons for that console purchase. The same went for a coworker; I managed to nab two PS5s the first week of launch and gave the second to my coworker, who also wanted one specifically for Ratchet & Clank. It quickly became one of my favorite games in years. On the other hand, Ars gaming editor Kyle Orland called it a good game in his review but had some reservations—so your mileage may vary, of course.
They’re great games, with a good combination of action and story, and absolutely none of the games-as-a-service stuff you see in triple-A games all too often these days. After all these years, it will be fascinating to see how these games do on PC, given their deep console lineage.
Rift Apart ended up being a good entry in the series, but maybe not the best; we’re still holding out for a PC release of the Future titles that were originally released on PS3, which were arguably the franchise’s halcyon days. Even if it’s not the absolute apex of franchise entries, Rift Apart has one extra thing going for it: It is a graphically gorgeous game. The only other game I’ve played recently that rivaled it was Cyberpunk 2077 on an ultra-high-end PC, so Rift Apart is worth playing on that basis alone. Sony says it will be available on Steam and the Epic Games Store.