Catan World Explorers is a new geolocation based AR game that transforms the entire Earth into one giant game of CATAN. Yesterday, a number of media outlets reported that the game is built on top of Niantic's Real World Platform, but we could not find a lot of hard evidence. In an effort to shed some light on Niantic's involvement, we've performed a quick investigation of the official Catan World Explorers website.

Here's what we've found.

HTML analysis

Landing page HTML contains 6 mentions of Niantic:

  • Link to Terms of Service
  • Link to Privacy Policy
  • Link to Cookie Policy
  • JavaScript tags to fetch Niantic's ARK.js cookie and analytics framework

The Terms of Service and Privacy Policy links on the website link to Niantic's ToS and Privacy Policy pages:

ARK.js

ARK framework is used on all Niantic websites. It includes a cookie bar component that gives Niantic a way to ask you for tracking consent:

We use cookies to give you the best possible user experience. Read our cookies policy here to learn more about our use of cookies, your choices, and how to change your browser settings.

In addition to the cookie bar, ARK tracks outbound links, clicks and other user initiated actions, as evident in the JavaScript file the page loads from Niantic's Google Storage:

import{p as a,b as t}from"./p-99058192.js";a().then(a=>t([["p-ydbjujiq",[[0,"ark-analytics",{trackingid:[513],autotrackOutboundLinks:[516,"autotrack-outbound-links"],autotrackEvents:[516,"autotrack-events"]}]]],["p-go6sjqod",[[0,"ark-cookiebar",{hidden:[1540]}]]]],a));

ARK is also responsible for embedding Google Analytics, which we believe is the underlying tracker:

<ark-analytics trackingid="UA-149581890-1" autotrack-outbound-links="" autotrack-events="" class="hydrated"><script> (function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','https://www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-149581890-1', 'none'); ga('require', 'outboundLinkTracker');ga('require', 'eventTracker', {attributePrefix: 'data-ga-'}); ga('send', 'pageview'); </script></ark-analytics>

Web page architecture

The website follows the same pattern we've observed on other Niantic sites:

  • Angular JS is included for client side scripting, but it's not used heavily. The only place we see it used is the pre-registration flow
  • The pre-registration flow looks eerily similar to the Wizards Unite pre-registration flow. If our memory serves us correctly, Braze was used in both flows as a backend for email collection and age validation. We can't confirm this, but we remember seeing Braze associated with Niantic in the past.
  • Unlike Wizards Unite website, Catan is hosted on Google's servers. Wizards Unite website is served on Amazon's servers. Pokemon GO's website is hosted on Google's servers as well, making Wizards Unite look more like an outlier than a rule.
  • ARK.js is used for analytics and cookie consent.

Other resources

Sure enough, I’ve confirmed with folks at Niantic that the company is indeed involved. They won’t say much about it, but confirmed to me that the game is being built on Niantic’s Real World Platform.