The metaverse doesn’t have to be some dark, dystopian virtual place where the physical world doesn’t exist.
Niantic, the augmented reality company behind popular games including Pokémon GO and Ingress, envisions a metaverse that is much more additive and complementary to the physical planet we live on.
The company shared this vision in its first brand campaign, released Thursday. The two-minute film, Meet You Out There, follows a group of people as they wake up inside gray, drab homes but are lured outside by vibrant AR extensions of their favorite games, showing how seamlessly the metaverse can extend to the world we already live in.
“Our three pillars are exploration, exercise and real world connection,” said Archit Bhargava, director of worldwide product marketing at Niantic. “AR can serve this purpose of enhancing our outdoor experiences.”
The film, created by You & Mr Jones-owned creative firm Gravity Road, was filmed with drone photography and incorporates technology and AR into the creative strategy. The campaign also leans into Niantic’s vision of a hybrid physical and virtual world with its media strategy, which was planned and executed by You & Mr Jones Media.
In addition to a global media rollout, the film was released within Ingress as an object players could obtain in physical locations relevant to the game. Niantic engaged gaming influencers to participate and share their experience finding the film. The film is also stacked with Easter eggs for Niantic games, around which the brand will create a real world scavenger hunt.
“We were encouraging people to go outside with a message, but with our media as well,” said Mark Boyd, cofounder, Gravity Road.
Gravity Road also helped Niantic develop an AR version of the famous ship in its logo, called the ARShip, which appears throughout the film. On November 17, National Hiking Day in the U.S., the company’s global workforce put up “out of office” messages as Niantic revealed the ARShip docked at the San Francisco Ferry Building in a special event for employees. The ARShip will also appear on screens in Times Square.
“In an early session, we drilled in on the logo as the key distinctive asset,” Boyd said. “All of those wonderful values of optimism, exploration, magic, we blew that up and that became the heart of the campaign.”
Gravity Road won the brief for the campaign in a competitive pitch. Niantic, which spun out of Google nine years ago, has done marketing around its games, including organizing in-person player meet-ups, but has never told the story behind its overarching brand.
But coming up on the launch of its newest game, Transformers: Heavy Metal, and the release of its AR developers platform, Lightship ARDK, which opens up its AR tools to global developers, Niantic felt it was time to put itself, and its mission, out there.
“An important element was ensuring the essence of the brand — that transition from inside to outside, and the benefits of being outside — was clear,” Bhargava said. “Our mission is to build services that keep people going out and mingling with one another.”
Because of this mission, Niantic doesn't consider itself a typical gaming company. Its founding team, which spun out of the division that became Google Earth, had a lot of experience building online maps. Niantic “wanted to use that in a way that can get people active and healthy,” Bhargava said, and “the best idea was games that encourage you to get off the couch and explore.”
The campaign aims to portray an optimistic picture of the metaverse and create an overarching narrative Niantic can tap into when advertising future products and game launches.
“There is so much about the metaverse that is dark, dystopian and scary and negative,” Boyd said. “But what Niantic talks about is the possibility. The film is the antithesis of people being stuck in a dark room. It’s a rallying cry to get outside and experience the world.”