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Niantic prepares 'Transformers' AR game for global release

'Pokemon Go' developer partners with Japan's Tomy and US toymaker Hasbro

U.S. software developer Niantic’s “Transformers: Heavy Metal” AR game will go on sale worldwide later this year. (Photo courtesy of Niantic)

PALO ALTO, U.S. -- U.S. software developer Niantic will launch augmented reality game "Transformers: Heavy Metal" later this year.

Nintendo and other Japanese companies have invested in Niantic, the company behind the breakout "Pokemon Go," which racked up more than 1 billion downloads globally. "Transformers: Heavy Metal" will become the second AR game app featuring characters that originated in Japan.

In "Transformers: Heavy Metal," players join the Guardian Network and team up with the Autobots to challenge the Decepticons. The smartphone game will use the development and operating platforms of a Niantic-designed AR app.

Niantic will partner with Tomy to deliver the game to players in Japan, while U.S. toymaker Hasbro will be in charge of taking the game to other countries. Test-piloting will begin soon in some regions.

Transformers is a Japanese-American franchise that originated from a line of toys sold by Japan's Takara, which later merged with Tomy. Hasbro started selling the robots in the U.S. in 1984, and "The Transformers" titles were later re-exported to their birth country. The franchise has come in the form of manga, anime and movies, which have made their way into more than 130 countries and regions.

Over 500 million Transformer toys have been sold around the globe.

Niantic is trying to leverage its platforms by licensing them to outside vendors as it also develops its own AR game apps such as the location-based title "Ingress" and "Pokemon Go."

The new game will be developed by U.S. company Very very spaceship, with Niantic in charge of marketing as the publisher.

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