Transformers AR Game From Pokemon GO's Niantic Canned Before Launch

It's almost ironic that just after Niantic Labs made a big splash about a new AR game, whispers of its internal turmoil started bubbling up. The company catapulted to fame with the meteoric success of "Pokemon GO," but it seems that fame has exacted a heavy toll yet again. The augmented reality game developer has struggled to recreate the magic of that long-running title with different franchises, and not much else has stood the test of time. On the heels of its NBA partnership comes news about the cancellation of no less than four projects, some of which we have thankfully never heard of. Unfortunately, the bad news doesn't stop there, as Niantic's troubles are now reportedly affecting its workforce.

"Pokemon GO" was a huge success due to a number of elements that, when combined, offered up the perfect AR title. The franchise itself was popular enough to appeal to people of all ages, and its augmented reality mechanics meshed well with how Pokemon games are played. Even the recent pandemic that prevented people from going out and walking around didn't completely kill "Pokemon GO" off, though the game didn't survive unscathed, either.

Unfortunately for Niantic Labs, it has been difficult to follow up on the success of "Pokemon GO" or even recreate its magic, and not for the lack of trying. "Harry Potter: Wizards Unite" was criticized as merely being a skin on top of "Pokemon GO," and "Catan AR" was axed for being too complicated and impractical to implement in the real world. Niantic has other games in the works, of course, but at least one of them will never see the light of day.

The AR company faces a harsh reality

Bloomberg reports that a couple of undesirable changes are taking place inside the company, citing an internal email reportedly sent to employees. Four AR projects have been given the boot, including "Transformers: Heavy Metal," which was announced almost exactly a year ago. "Hamlet," a collaboration with British theater company Punchdrunk, is also one of the casualties, along with unannounced projects "Blue Sky" and "Snowball." There's no word on the status of "Peridot," a new Niantic Labs original property that's like a mashup of Tamagotchi and Pokemon.

Even more disheartening is the news that the people working on those projects will also be laid off. The report equates that to about 85 to 90 people or 8% of Niantic's total workforce. It might be a small fraction, but it still spells trouble for a company that is already struggling to prove it wasn't a one-hit-wonder with "Pokemon GO." According to the report, Niantic cited "economic turmoil" as the reason for this decision.

That opportunity to prove itself might come with the recently announced "NBA All-World" AR game, which also offers fertile ground for merchandising and advertisements, something pro basketball fans are used to. At the moment, however, the game still doesn't have a launch date, so it remains to be seen if it will actually get out the door or — even if it does — how long it will last.