Weve known about this project for a while. Niantics first official project with Nintendo, we learned a while back that it would be related to Pikmin and that it would be designed in partnership with original creator Shigeru Miyamoto. But thats all we knew, details and functionality remained a mystery.
Digging deep into what Niantic is best at, Pikmin Bloom is an AR mobile game, using real-world location tracking as a core component to the game. The player can go for walks, grow their own collection of pikmin, and more. While the trailer doesnt show that much detail, Eurogamers Tom Phillips got a hands-on look at the app ahead of time, giving us some deeper insight to how the game will operate.
They describe the game as a charming mix of light strategy, collecting and exploration over your local area. They also include the disclaimer that there's much less Pokémon GO in Pikmin Bloom than you might expect.
Then what CAN we expect?
Phillips explains that the game is more heavily focused on going for walks. Whenever you start walking, you can select a Start Flower Planting option, which spreads flower pedals around the players avatar as they travel. This acts as a power booster, of sorts, to the rest of the game features. Otherwise, players can incubate their own pikmin seedlings, which will gradually grow into a mature pikmin creature (compare this to hatching eggs in GO).
As your pikmin collection grows, you can start sending them out on Expeditions. They will then return with various fruits like oranges and limes. These fruits can be turned into nectar, which can be fed back to the pikmin. Different types of nectar can determine what kind of flowers the pikmin bloom into.
At the end of every day (at 9PM), the player is then provided with a daily activity log, like in the original games. Using pictures of your travels as postcards, of a sort, this phase acts as more of a scrapbooking experience than a data log, however.
Phillips spoke with Niantic founder John Hanke, who expanded on the more casual nature of the game.
[Pikmin Bloom] doesn't demand your attention at certain times, but it's there when you want to give it your attention. If you want to pay attention to something else, maybe you're walking with a friend and talking to them, or in a coffee shop and ordering a coffee, you can put the game away at any time. If you're planting flowers they'll continue to plant, if you're still walking it'll still count your steps. If you were playing another Niantic game you can do that without it competing for your attention.
There was a concern for privacy, however. When players start flower planting, they leave a trail of petals and flowers as they go. Other players in the area can come across these flowers, and in theory, see the path you took on your walk. This has given beta users like Phillips some worry about someone tracking their habits or following them. When discussing this issue with a Niantic developer, they assured that the methods available in the game are a happy medium between collaboration and privacy.
We tried to do this in a subtle way though - so even if you don't see people, you can see trails of flowers and things people have left behind which leaves traces and feelings of the pretense of others, but not who has made them, or any way to trace them back to the actual person.
But for those concerned, you can opt to disable your flower paths from being viewable by others.
Heres a fun surprise: Pikmin Bloom is available now (almost). The studio is rolling out the app for release in various countries at a time, and will hit your local area here soon. At the time of writing, its only launched in Australia and Singapore. The official Twitter account has been announcing this as they go. More information, including where to download the app once it is available, can be found on the official website.