Peridot is heavily inspired by Tamagotchi, the virtual-pet phenomenon of the ’90s. “Peridot is the modern-day spin on the original Tamagotchi,” Ziah Fogel, Peridot’s director of product, said at a press preview last Wednesday.
That’s an accurate summary of the game. When you look at your surroundings through the app, you can see your virtual pet running, hiding, and navigating around real-life obstacles. The pets are cute enough, and as someone who wants a pet and loves animals, it gave me similar fuzzy feelings to actually having one. However, I found the game play a little repetitive, and the game drained my phone’s battery unbelievably quickly.
The big question is whether Niantic can re-create the success of its blockbuster game Pokémon Go, which became a cultural phenomenon in 2016 as players chased characters in a frenzy to score rewards. Niantic followed up with games inspired by other franchises like Harry Potter, Catan, and Transformers, but this is its first original in-house game since Ingress, the company’s first AR game in 2014. A lot is riding on it.
With Peridot, Niantic is veering away from franchises and creating an entirely new world with new characters. All Dots are unique, according to the company, created using in-house algorithms that mash together creatures inspired by the real (for example, cheetahs), the legendary (yeti), and the imaginary (unicorns). Other algorithms affect physical attributes like skin texture and plumage. When Dots mate with each other, an entirely new being “hatches,” each combining Dots parents’ algorithmically derived genetic code.
Fogel said these algorithms ensure that no two Dots will ever be alike: “The number of combinations—2.3 x 1024—surpasses the number of stars in the universe and granules of sand on Earth.”
Like Tamagotchi, the game begins with an egg. I chose a granite one, which cracked open to reveal a round, fluffy silver animal with huge anime eyes. I had just made a grocery list before playing, which was probably why I decided to name my virtual pet Orzo. In my dimly lit office, Orzo ping-ponged off the walls, “drilled” into the carpet to unearth a snack, and then cuddled next to me, cooing after I “petted” it by rubbing its tummy on my iPhone screen.
While my Dot was “born” in my home, the virtual creatures are not intended to be homebound. Niantic sees Peridot as an outdoor game, just like Pokémon Go. “We want to inspire daily movement,” says Fogel.
Peridot does this by rewarding players with prizes for milestone numbers of steps they’ve taken or distances they’ve traveled while using the app. It also suggests local points of interest, like parks where people can take their Dots to hunt for food or trophies.