Although Pokemon GO continues to be a popular game and money-maker for Niantic Labs, the mobile AR game developer hasn’t had much success with its other attempts are recreating that magic. The latest evidence of its failure is CATAN: World Explorers, the mobile AR recreation of a highly popular board game. While the heavyweight brand should have garnered interest and resources, it seems that it just wasn’t meant to be, as the game is shutting down soon after spending a year in early access.
It is starting to feel like Pokemon GO is a one-off success that couldn’t be recreated, even by Niantic Labs itself. The AR developers’ first game, Ingress, had a faithful following but failed to go mainstream enough to be considered profitable. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite tried to recreate the Pokemon GO magic with another internationally known property, but its implementation felt too close to Pokemon GO to be seen as its own thing.
Niantic Labs announced in late 2019 that it was working on the CATAN IP to turn the world into the AR game board. The game revolves around resource collection and management, building settlements, and trading with other players. Sounds simple for board games and regular computer games, but translating the mechanics to real-world AR proved to be more than just an insurmountable challenge, or at least that’s the reason Niantic Labs is giving.
According to its announcement, they developed mechanics that became too complicated and too far removed from the original CATAN that it didn’t make sense to push through with it. Instead, the developers have decided to just cut their losses and shut down the game on November 18th, 2021, 7 am UTC. Niantic, however, has already removed the game from app stores and removed real-money purchases from the in-game store.
CATAN: World Explorers now joins the mobile AR graveyard that Minecraft Earth started occupying early this year. Developed by Mojang itself, the AR version of the popular sandbox game also lasted just a year before it proved to be too much of an unprofitable waste of resources to keep alive. Unfortunately, very few mobile AR games have managed to survive and succeed, making Pokemon GO truly one of a kind.