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Niantic COO Megan Quinn. Photo: Niantic

The pandemic has disrupted businesses everywhere — just ask Niantic, maker of location-based games like Pokemon Go that typically rely on getting out of the house to move around, often in groups.

The big picture: Companies have to move fast to adjust to the current reality. For Niantic, COO Megan Quinn tells Axios, that means keeping its games playable during the pandemic, while also building toward the augmented-reality future it envisions.

Details: Niantic has quickly rewritten the rules and mechanics of its games, allowing people to do more from home, while still offering options to those who can venture out.

  • Last weekend, Niantic hosted its first ever virtual Pokemon Go Fest. The gathering is typically a physical event but was turned into a global, virtual event this year.
  • In an interview, Quinn, a former venture capitalist who joined the firm in mid-April. called it a "stellar" weekend, noting that the company sold millions of tickets at $15 apiece, with Niantic's share of the proceeds going toward Black Lives Matter and racial justice efforts.

Between the lines: It's hard enough starting a new job as COO, let alone doing so amid a pandemic where no one can be in the office.

  • But Quinn says things have actually gone pretty well, in large part because she has worked with Niantic CEO John Hanke in some capacity for much of the last two decades.
  • As a VC, Quinn was an investor in Niantic and has served as a board member.

What's next: Niantic is focused on building its underlying platform, creating its own new titles and helping other developers build their own apps using Niantic's maps and technology.

  • The company has also started early external testing of its next location-based game, an adaption of Settlers of Catan. The company has said it has 10 titles in the works (and not all are games), with plans to release two each year for the next several years.

Niantic also has ambitions beyond phones, building its platform to be ideally situated in the event augmented-reality glasses finally break through as a mainstream product.

  • As part of that, it announced a partnership with Qualcomm last year to help collaborate on reference hardware, though Quinn told Protocol the company has no interest in getting into the hardware business itself.

Go deeper

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The Biden administration is rethinking the U.S. approach to sanctions after four years of Donald Trump imposing and escalating them.

The big picture: Sanctions are among the most powerful tools the U.S. has to influence its adversaries’ behavior without using force. But they frequently fail to bring down regimes or moderate their behavior, and they can increase the suffering of civilians and resentment of the U.S.

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Merkel's farewell spoiled by Poland crisis at EU summit

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Angela Merkel took up her vaunted mantle as Europe's crisis manager for what could be the last time tonight, as she urged the EU to find compromise in its showdown with Poland.

Why it matters: The European Commission has threatened to withhold over $40 billion in pandemic recovery funds after Poland's constitutional tribunal — stacked with loyalists from the ruling right-wing populist party — rejected the principle that EU law has primacy over national law.

Republicans who put it all on the line

Rep. Nancy Mace speaks with reporters after voting to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A small contingent of House Republicans risked their political futures on Thursday, they say, in the name of constitutional responsibility.

Why it matters: The nine Republicans who voted to hold former Trump aide Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress are now in peril of becoming political pariahs. They've opened themselves up to potential primary challengers and public attacks from their party's kingmaker — former President Trump.