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Why the Developer of the New ‘Harry Potter’ Mobile Game and ‘Pokemon Go’ Loves 5G

February 26, 2019, 12:38 PM UTC

At Niantic, the mobile game developer behind Pokemon Go and the upcoming Harry Potter: Wizards Unite app, there is no question that new, faster 5G wireless networks will be extremely useful. While some question whether consumers will see much benefit from 5G and its potentially ten times faster download speeds, Niantic is already working on games that will require the upgrade.

“We’re actually really excited about 5G,” Niantic CEO John Hanke said in a speech at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Tuesday. “Is there some way that that’s going to allow the creation of products, for example, that are going to generate real consumer excitement about wanting 5G service and upgrading to 5G handsets? We think there definitely is.”

Hanke showed a video of a prototype game Niantic has developed codenamed Neon that allows multiple people in the same place at the same time to play an augmented reality game. Players can shoot at each other, duck and dodge, and pick up virtual reality items, with each player’s phone showing them the game’s graphics superimposed on the real world. But the game depends on highly responsive wireless connections for all the phones, connections unavailable on today’s 4G LTE networks.

“We’re really pushing the boundaries of what we can do on today’s networks,” Hanke said. “We need 5G to deliver the kinds of experiences that we are imagining.”

Niantic, which was spun out of Google (GOOGL) as an independent company in 2015, has also struck partnerships with Deutsche Telekom, SK Telecom, and Samsung along with cloud software startup MobiledgeX to exploit 5G technology in its games. Hanke said the company would announce further partnerships soon.

The highly-anticipated Harry Potter game, based on the fictional world created by J.K. Rowling, was announced in November 2017 and is expected to come out at some point later this year. Hanke mentioned the game but didn’t give any further details.

Pokemon Go, which came out almost three years ago, has been downloaded more than 1 billion times and generated $2 billion in revenue, Hanke said.