Niantic, the developers behind Pokemon Go, have teamed up with payments company Fold to create an augmented reality (AR) game where players can earn Bitcoins. This real world metaverse, as the company calls it, has Niantic’s real-world mapping tech coming together with the Fold’s app capabilities and players can explore the real world around them and win cryptocurrency rewards.
Niantic’s AR tech has players looking for rare creatures on Pokemon Go and battling other players. This partnership with Fold and the real world metaverse experience that earns players Bitcoin rewards certainly sounds infinitely more lucrative.
This new experience is available for Fold App users to play in beta currently and rewards can be earned in Bitcoin as well as in the form of other in-app benefits. According to reports, Niantic is working on expanding this experience following the recent $300 million investment it got from Coatue.
Fold CEO Will Reeves explained in a release that anyone can use the Fold app and called it the “easiest, most fun way to get your first piece of Bitcoin”. “For us, it's always been important to make participating in the Bitcoin economy easy for anyone, regardless of education or technical expertise,” Reeves said.
The experience is going to work just as the Pokemon Go game experience does. In this case, the rare creatures will be replaced by prizes that players can collect. Fresh new blocks of bounty will be dropped around players at fixed intervals of 10 minutes and just as one would explore the physical world in search for Bulbasaurs and Blitzles, you now go hunting for Bitcoin. Once a player manages to claim a block, they earn Satoshis, which are the smallest units of the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, there also also other in-app rewards to be won. But it’s not all win-win, you can lose your Bitcoin wins if you come across a ‘poison pill’, much like the damage you’d endure while fighting Team Rocket grunts.
If you are keen on giving this real world metaverse experience a shot, you need to use the Fold app. However, players do not need to own a Fold card to play. For Fold card holders there are additional rewards and prizes to be won.
Reports say that once the game has been launched officially, players will be able to trade the Bitcoin they’ve won in the game.
Niantic and Fold’s use of the term metaverse is not to be confused with the Metaverse Facebook or Meta is working on. That Metaverse involves the use of virtual reality (VR) while Niantic has kept things relatively simple with AR. Niantic aslo does not seem to have any plans to go the VR way with CEO and founder John Hanke mentioning in a blog that Metaverse is a “dystopian nightmare”. “A lot of people these days seem very interested in bringing this near-future vision of a virtual world to life, including some of the biggest names in technology and gaming. But in fact these novels served as warnings about a dystopian future of technology gone wrong,” Hanke wrote.
“As a society, we can hope that the world doesn’t devolve into the kind of place that drives sci-fi heroes to escape into a virtual one — or we can work to make sure that doesn’t happen. At Niantic, we choose the latter. We believe we can use technology to lean into the ‘reality’ of augmented reality — encouraging everyone, ourselves included, to stand up, walk outside, and connect with people and the world around us. This is what we humans are born to do, the result of two million years of human evolution, and, as a result, those are the things that make us the happiest. Technology should be used to make these core human experiences better — not to replace them,” he added.
Niantic’s focus on the need to “stand up, walk outside, and connect with people” recently earned them quite some flack from Pokemon Go players. In the second half of 2020, Niantic had introduced a whole bunch of changes in the game allowing players to continue playing while maintaining COVID-19 safety protocols. Travel distances for hatching eggs was reduced, the interaction area for gyms and Pokestops were increased, etc, and these updates were much appreciated by players since the game itself depends mostly on players walking around and exploring the world around them physically.
Earlier this year Niantic announced that they were going to roll back some of these COVID-19 changes and making the game go back to how it used to be. This decision was met with a lot of backlash from players who felt that it was too early to go out and explore the world with the pandemic fears still looming over most countries. While initially it appeared that Niantic was not interested in listening to what players had to say, it eventually succumbed and said they are not going to roll back the changes.
Since Niantic and Fold’s new metaverse also works on the same principle as Pokemon Go, it remains to be seen how players and Fold users warm up to the concept of walking around in the real world right now. However, since there are more tangible rewards to be won, and not just event-specific pocket monsters, everyone might just want to step out and get walking.
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