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Immersive Theater Group Punchdrunk Signs Deal With ‘Pokemon Go’ Creator Niantic


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Brit immersive theater pioneers Punchdrunk, behind the hit New York production Sleep No More, have teamed teamed with U.S.-based augmented reality company Niantic, which developed Nintendo’s 2016 smash Pokemon Go. 

Under the partnership, the two are developing multiple projects they say will “reinvent storytelling for a 21st century audience and further expand the horizon of interactive entertainment,” combining both real-world augmented reality and live theatrical performance. 

“It is hugely exciting to be joining forces with the preeminent AR company in the world. At Punchdrunk we create richly cinematic 3D worlds where audiences can explore, touch and smell the environment; where the boundaries between reality and fantasy are indistinguishable. Those that have seen Sleep No More often liken the experience to how it might feel to walk into a video game. What happens if you take that sense of adventure into the real world? Tear down the walls and the world becomes your stage,” said Punchdrunk’s artistic director Felix Barrett. 

“I believe that Punchdrunk and Niantic can create something that has never been done before. They do it in AR, we do it in real life. Collide the two and I think we will blow people’s minds; bend the rules of genre and redefine the norms of mobile gaming.”

Alongside its contemporary Macbeth inspired show Sleep No More, which has been running in New York since 2011 and in Shanghai since 2016, Punchdrunk is prepping its first small-screen outing in The Third Day, a major collaboration between Sky Studios, HBO and Plan B and starring Jude Law and Naomie Harris. The mini-series is due out Autumn 2020, both on screen and via a live event. Niantic, having created one of the most talked about and profitable apps in Pokemon Go — which had earned revenue in excess of $3 billion by early 2019 — was also behind last year’s augmented reality Warner Bros. game Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.  

“Felix is a creative tour de force whose works are canonized in immersive theatre history,” said John Hanke, founder and CEO of Niantic.

“Punchdrunk’s unique vision for real-world storytelling and a shared interest in pushing the bounds of world building and immersion are what brought us together initially. Our teams have been collaborating for many months to create entirely new experiences that merge the physical and digital worlds in a way that hasn’t before been attempted. We think the potential is global and massive.”

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