Niantic CEO Wants ‘Pokemon Go’ Enabled Contact Lenses

Pokemon Go
Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty

Despite Pokemon Go’s massive success, Niantic CEO John Hanke has a vision for a game that operates on an even grander scale — starting on the surface of your eyes.

Having the fastest fifty million downloads on a mobile game-turned-global-phenomenon isn’t anything to sneeze at. Earning $160 million in less than a month isn’t half bad either. And if you can distract an Olympian from his training to the tune of a $5,000 phone bill at the Olympics, you’re doing all right.

Unless you’re John Hanke, in which case you’re only just getting started.

Instead of tuning your eyes to your phone — often to your detriment — the Niantic CEO would rather have the Pokemon appear organically in your vision, via custom contact lenses. He believes such things will happen “in our lifetime,” based on his own experience working with the folks behind Google Glass.

In a perfect world, Pokemon Go wouldn’t even need to rely on microtransactions for revenue. Instead of forking out real cash for in-game items, users would be rewarded for spending money at locations sponsoring the game. It would reduce the need to alter game mechanics to manipulate people into spending money on extra Pokeballs.

It hasn’t exactly worked out that way so far, and some may find Hanke’s claims disingenuous in the face of recent design decisions. Niantic just made catching Pokemon significantly harder, amplifying the amount of time, money, and frustration necessary to “catch ’em all.” It’s a very effective way to squeeze every penny from arguably the most viral mobile app on Earth, but it also carries the risk of alienating people from the only real activity in the game.

We’ll see how it all plays out. If nothing else, Hanke has ninety-nine percent of what you need for success: He’s got the audience, and they’re paying attention. Now it’s up to him and his team to give them a show that leaves them wanting more.

Follow Nate Church @Get2Church on Twitter for the latest news in gaming and technology, and snarky opinions on both.


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