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Niantic and Nintendo’s new AR experiment is a ho-hum Pikmin mobile browser game

Niantic and Nintendo’s new AR experiment is a ho-hum Pikmin mobile browser game

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Pikmin Finder is cute because it’s Pikmin, but nobody seemed to try very hard on it.

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A picture of a smartphone with the game running in a browser. On the phone screen, you can see the desk behind the phone, where three Pikmin stand around a strawberry, perched on an Apple Watch band.
Oh, hey, a strawberry.
Photo by Wes Davis / The Verge

Nintendo has a new Pikmin AR experiment for your mobile browser, called Pikmin Finder, that lets you pluck pikmin from any old place and send them off to collect treasure for you (via Nintendo Life). It’s basically a cute, distilled version of 2021’s Pikmin Bloom, and unless you’re just hopelessly charmed by Shigeru Miyamoto’s imaginary garden creatures, it’s only good for a couple minutes of diversion. And the only official acknowledgment that it exists appears to be a support article.

Niantic representative Greg Chiemingo told The Verge in an email that the game “was made by Nintendo using Niantic’s 8th Wall web-based development platform.”

Niantic has had trouble lately. Between summer layoffs, a studio closure, and a lawsuit alleging internal sexual bias, the beleaguered company hasn’t put its best foot forward lately. Niantic has a lot riding on its upcoming AR game Monster Hunter Now, but even if that game is a hit that’s not Pokémon Go, the company has issues to reckon with.

A picture of two pikmin standing around a pink diner-style coffee mug.
Hey look, some AR pikmin on my desk.
Screenshot by Wes Davis / The Verge

Pikmin Finder clearly isn’t meant to be part of that reckoning — it’s a simple AR toy meant to wet your whistle for the excellent Pikmin 4 (see the ad that shows up when you look at the treasures you’ve collected).

You start by pointing your phone’s camera at a surface, look around for the telltale pikmin stalk poking up from the ground, and swipe up near it to pluck the li’l fella. Once you’ve found all of the two or three nearby pikmin, you can tap a button to send them marching off-screen to find some treasure, which they’ll return to present you with a few minutes later. And that’s it. That’s the game.

Somehow, even as a digital AR game equivalent of a fidget spinner, the Pikmin Finder experiment comes up short. But if you’re looking to pass the time by pulling pikmin out of your desk, just load up your mobile browser of choice and head over to the site.

Correction September 5th, 2023, 5:34PM ET: This article originally said this game was produced by Niantic, when in fact Nintendo created the game using a web development platform provided by Niantic. We regret the error.