'Pokémon Go' creator Niantic to develop GPS-based tourism games

Niantic is partnering with the United Nations for a responsible tourism project.

It was at the helm of GPS/AR/Maps-based "exergaming" in 2013 with Ingress, saw phenomenal success with Pokémon Go, and will launch a location-based Harry Potter mobile game next year. Now, Niantic is making the natural move into tourism-focused games. In partnership with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), as part of its Travel.Enjoy.Respect program, the games company will create new experiences that encourage players to explore and discover the hidden histories of both their own neighborhoods and further afield.

"With our ongoing commitment to promote sustainable and responsible tourism, and Niantic having recently become a UNWTO Affiliate Member, this partnership is a natural fit," said Ion Vilcu, Director of UNWTO's affiliate members department, before adding that Niantic is the obvious choice for "creating real-world mobile game experiences that not only motivate their players to discover new places, but also to appreciate the culture and beauty of the world around them."

It's very early days for the project. It's not clear what these games will look like, nor what kind of timeline is in place for their launch, but there's no question that if any company is going to get people out and about exploring, Niantic is best placed to do it. The question, however, is how successful the project will be without the backing of a major franchise. Pokémon and Harry Potter don't need much of an introduction. Ingress, however, hasn't performed as well. Still, the United Nations is no small fry either, so its success will certainly depend on its marketing and USP. Watch this space.