‘Transformers: Heavy Metal’ Merges Transformers Fandom & Storytelling With ‘Pokémon GO’ Play

More than meets the eye: Niantic, Hasbro, and Tomy are transforming the next generation of AR play.

Growing up in the 1980’s I would fiercely run to my neighbors’ house after school to watch Transformers. We would sing the theme song and at the end of each episode dash outside to replicate the Autobot vs Decepticon battle scenes. The battles resulted in sand-jammed Transformers and no matter what I always felt like I was one step into the future. 

Today, Niantic is developing experiences that keep kids and players of all ages one step into the future by pioneering real-world AR gaming, creating active adventures on the go with friends and gamifying our world through connected play experiences such as Ingress, Pokémon GO, and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.

Niantic continues to gamify the world by teaming up with Hasbro and the TOMY Company to publish TRANSFORMERS: Heavy Metal, an AR game that brings Optimus Prime and Bumblebee to life in the real world through the Niantic Lightship platform. The Niantic Lightship ARDK is a planet-scale AR platform that allows developers to create their own AR worlds and experiences that leverage location, environmental context, and shared multiplayer views using real-time 3d mapping.


Transformers: Heavy Metal merges Transformers fandom and storytelling with Pokemon Go play. Characters are based on the G1 fan favorites, so if you were a child of the 1980s or have a pure love for G1, get ready to blast off into Cybertron and revisit memories of yesteryear. According to Niantic, TRANSFORMERS: Heavy Metal players will join the Guardian Network, a group of humans who have banded together with the Autobots in a war against the Decepticons. As a Guardian, players will uncover hidden regions across Earth to find resources and battle Decepticons in turn-based battles, either solo or with friends. 

According to Niantic’s Executive Producer, Phil Hong, “This will be a Transformers game unlike any other, an AR game where you’ll get to team up with the likes of Bumblebee and the Autobots in the real world, powered by the Niantic Lightship platform.”

With a planned global launch later this year, TRANSFORMERS: Heavy Metal will enter a soft launch in select markets soon. TOMY is Niantic’s partner for the release in Japan, and Seattle-based Very Very Spaceship is leading the development of the game.

Transformers is the perfect franchise for AR. Battling and interacting with giant robots in the real world is an amazing experience,” said John Hanke, CEO of Niantic. 

Image Credit: Niantic


Many of the parents today grew up with Transformers and have their own experiences of what the legendary franchise means to them, from the after-school shows and the original feature film to the action figures and old-school video games.

Transformers collector, tech enthusiast, and toy inventor, Robert Earl-Ocran Jr., stated, “As a kid, Transformers was complete magic from many angles, the obvious robots to vehicles and proper personalities that you could relate to. Then engineering, my mum couldn’t afford all that was available, so I simply made characters I was missing, out of cardboard. A Rubik’s cube with a soul is how I often describe the sensation of converting them back and forth.”

Image Credit: Niantic

“Transformers pretty much unlocked the creative gene in me and easily by far the reason I pursued design in school and beyond. It hasn’t changed one bit in four decades. I feel every emotion now as I did then and get more excited as Transformer experiences evolve. Probably more so now as a father, sharing those experiences and new ones. Heavy Metal is a brilliant way to get gamers out and about whilst sharing the experience with like-minded bots together.” 

Today, the entire planet is a kids’ sandbox, board game table, and playscape. They create, play, and augment their worlds with their friends on the go with brilliant storylines and characters alongside a global community of hundreds of millions of explorers. The future of play will continue to converge, mix, and merge worlds from physical to digital, from Cybertron to Earth, and all of the galaxies beyond our wildest imagination.

Feature Image Credit: Niantic

About the Scout

Valerie Vacante

Val Vacante is the Director of Strategy for global customer experience agency, Merkle, a dentsu company, where she uncovers cultural trends, designs strategies, and next-generation innovations. Val is also the Founder of strategy and innovation firm Collabsco. Val has pioneered digital products and integrated marketing experiences across digital platforms, connected communities, IoT, and extended reality experiences for Fortune 100 brands and up-and-coming startups. Named Top 25 Women in Tech, 40/ Forty, and Top 10 Pioneering CEOs to Follow, she serves on the SXSW Innovation Advisory Board, MassChallenge Expert, an international speaker, and writer. You can likely find her at arcades, museums, tech incubators, and almost anywhere creators are designing the future.

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