Ingress, Niantic's Matrix-y sci-fi predecessor to Pokémon Go, has gained a set of fresh upgrades as part of its big Prime relaunch - and some of these new features may make their way to Pokémon Go.
Revamped re-release Ingress Prime launched last night for iPhone and Android devices. Its aim is to make the notoriously complex game more user-friendly, using more modern technology and lessons learned from the wild success Pokémon Go has found.
The big relaunch streamlines Ingress' opening stages, reboots its story, offers more information about its fictional world and characters, and is accompanied by a series of in-universe videos to get you hooked on the game's lore.
Other new features include the upcoming ability to prestige your progress when you hit the level cap, and an AR mode to see the revamped Ingress map laid out on a real-world surface for you to pore over.
Players who choose to prestige back from level 16 to level one will gain unspecified "unique benefits", and will also have their prestiged status reflected to other players.
Many of Pokémon Go's hardcore players are now at the game's level 40 cap - and a growing number of budding Pokémon trainers are now joining them, thanks to the buckets of XP given out by PoGo's recent friendship system.
"We are creating a real-world platform that is spanning all of our games," Niantic engineering boss Niniana Wang told me when I asked about the feature coming to Pokémon Go. It's a code base that can be used for Ingress Prime, Pokémon Go and the upcoming Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.
"The engineering that goes into those features can then be more easily integrated into each of our games," Wang continued, "so when you ask specifically about prestige, some elements of that are very specific to Ingress, in particular the levelling and badges, [but] there's an amount of technology for features that do get put into libraries that can be used later, and there's an amount of learning that is then spread throughout our organisation."
The ability to prestige your level in Pokémon Go is something many of the game's hardcore would welcome. Speaking from experience, I've seen multiple players simply begin second accounts instead when they hit the cap and their XP bar vanishes. After nearly two-and-a-half years, more players will soon be hitting the cap and looking for something else to when that happens.
An AR mode for Pokémon Go has also been much-requested by fans. At the moment, you can only snap an AR photo when catching a Pokémon - after that, it cannot be photographed again. Last month, Niantic showed off a prototype "Pokémon GO AR Garden" experience at a Tokyo technology event - and Niantic boss John Hanke was snapped trying it out. It certainly feels like this could be added to Pokémon Go properly in the near future.
Niantic is realistic about Ingress Prime's audience when compared to the Pokémon phenomenon, but as Ingress is Niantic's own intellectual property, it is able to experiment within the game and around it more freely - and then apply learnings to its other titles.
For now though, Ingress Prime is here and Niantic has big hopes it will attract some of the more hardcore Pokémon Go crowd into taking a look. It's a line I've heard Niantic use before, but the words "Pokémon Go is the world's best onboarding tool for Ingress" have never been more accurate. Ingress Prime's HUD and overworld have been retooled in 3D, in a design which looks very similar to that of Pokémon Go's map layout. Niantic is playing up the rivalry between Ingress' two teams - Resistance and Enlightened - which will likely appeal to devotees of PoGo's Mystic, Valor and Instinct. And there are now plenty of tools to help you get started in Ingress Prime - including explainer videos, that in-universe fiction series and even the game's upcoming anime show.