Pokemon GO Creator's Next AR Game Is All About Virtual Pets

The concept of augmented reality games is often joined by images of people wearing headsets or glasses, walking around the real world, and seeing reality mixed with things that don't really exist. That might be where AR is headed eventually, but the current state of things is less dramatic. For now, at least, AR games are played with mobile phones that offer only a small window into this mix of digital and physical realities.

The biggest name in this still-small market is, of course, Niantic Labs, with its highly successful and still active "Pokemon GO." The former Google company, however, doesn't want to be defined by that game alone and certainly not by its multiple failures, and so it is trying to break out of the mold with a new game — one that, ironically enough, will probably be known as a "Pokemon GO" clone.

To be fair to Niantic Labs, "Pokemon GO" wasn't its only success. The company started with a lesser-known mobile AR game called "Ingress," which did have a small but loyal following. That game was incubated inside Google before the search giant split off into different companies under Alphabet, but Niantic soon also departed to walk down its own path, and with a newer and more lucrative game in the making.

"Pokemon GO" combined the location-based underpinning of "Ingress" with gameplay that actually made people go outside and take walks. The game is the company's most successful and still-active game to date, and that's partly thanks to revolving around one of the most popular franchises in the world. That said, Pokemon isn't the only popular IP that Niantic Labs has tried to turn into a cash cow, and its previous attempts proved that popularity doesn't always translate to success.

Pokemon meets Tamagotchi

Despite the odds, Niantic is boldly stepping into new territory, one that sounds all too familiar. "Peridot" is a game that seems to blend pet-raising themes from the likes of Tamagotchi with the core game mechanics of "Pokemon GO." The goal for players isn't simply to "catch 'em all," but to actually grow and nurture the digital creatures. Many of the details are still shrouded in mystery, including whether you can raise multiple "Dots" (which is short for Peridots, the virtual pets in the game) and if there's any form of combat involved. 

There are definitely lots of elements of exploration and collecting items, at least based on Niantic's description, and the initial screenshots show many similarities with "Pokemon GO." Still, this could make for an interesting formula, especially for those who want to break away from the Pokemon world.

That doesn't guarantee the game will succeed where more established properties have failed, though. "Harry Potter: Wizards Unite," despite being based on a globally renowned franchise, failed to capture the imagination and players, partly because it felt too much like "Pokemon GO." Likewise, "Catan: World Explorers" never even made it out the door because Niantic became too ambitious with features it wanted to implement. 

There is a slim chance that "Peridot" could be the break the AR game developer needs to prove it isn't a one-trick pony, but we'll have to wait for the full details to see whether it'll ultimately be just another reskinned "Pokemon GO" game.