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Pokemon Go maker Niantic launches initiative to help Black game developers

Studios accepted into the program will receive five months of assistance.

The developer of mobile title Pokemon Go, Niantic, is rolling out a scheme to support Black game developers.

The Black Developers Initiative is a brand new effort by the studio, with the promise of people who are selected receiving five months of funding, mentorship and development support from Niantic's "leaders" with the aim of completing a playable prototype of their game. The first team to be welcomed into the Black Developers Initiative is Wicked Saints, with its project World Reborn.

The studio is looking to work with similar titles to its own Pokemon Go, Ingress and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, i.e. "real-world augmented reality" games. To be eligible, have to meet at least one of the below criteria:

  • Black team member(s) have a direct line to the profits of the game.
  • The company/studio is at least 51% Black-owned operated and controlled as based on the NMSDC requirements defined here under “Certification Criteria” used by the Small Business Administration.
  • Eligibility is established via a combination of screenings, interviews, and site visits (post-covid). Ownership, in the case of a publicly-owned business, means that at least 51% of the stock is owned by one or more Black members.
  • Black people driving game vision via a leadership position. Leadership is defined as:
    • Founder
    • Creative Director/Lead Designer
    • Technical Director/Lead Programmer
    • Art Director/Lead Artist
    • Producer
  • The studio team is at least 50% Black.

Studios have until Sunday, March 14 to submit their applications to be part of this scheme. There's no word on how big each "cohort" of developers is, or how many teams are being accepted into Niantic's Black Developers Initiative each year. You can check out the full details of the programme here.

This follows Niantic donating proceeds from its 2020 Pokemon Go Fest tickets to causes supporting Black Lives Matter, with a minimum commitment of $5 million.

"During last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests for racial justice, I discussed Niantic’s commitment to change and how we would take action to continue to be a force for good in the world," Niantic boss John Hanke wrote in a blog post.

"Those efforts have included supporting our Black and underrepresented minority employees, empowering all employees to combat systemic racism and social injustice, and creating powerful, scalable impact through the culture, ideas, and role models we help to create.

On that last point, we specifically committed to funding and supporting projects from Black developers. Increasing content that represents a more diverse view of the world is critical and central to Niantic’s mission to inspire people to explore the world together."

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