Punchdrunk, the UK immersive theater company behind popular event Sleep No More and the planned accompanying experience to Sky/HBO’s Jude Law series The Third Day, is embarking on a new endeavor with Pokemon Go creators Niantic.
The two companies will develop new experiences that will combine live interactive entertainment and augmented reality (AR). They say they are in development on several properties that will be original experiences not linked to previous productions.
Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More, loosely based on Macbeth, was first staged in 2003 in London and eventually ran in Boston, New York and Shanghai. It allowed audiences to be immersed in a live theatrical performance, placing them among the actors in a series of dressed up rooms.
The company has staged a number of other productions in immersive forms, including Woyzeck and Faust, and teamed up with Sky, HBO and Plan B on their upcoming Jude Law series The Third Day to deliver an experience alongside the show’s broadcast, which was scheduled for May this year but has been postponed by the pandemic.
San Francisco-based Niantic had a huge hit with its AR app game Pokemon Go, which was developed with Nintendo and the Pokemon company and released on mobile in 2015. As of 2019, the company said the game had been downloaded more than a billion times. The developer has also released a game based on Harry Potter as well as its original property Ingress.
“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,” said Punchdrunk’s Artistic Director Felix Barrett. “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.
“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.”
“Felix is a creative tour de force whose works are canonized in immersive theatre history,” added 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.”