Pokémon GO is a newly announced Pokémon mobile game coming to smartphones in 2016. Essentially, it will use your phone’s built-in GPS to give you access to an augmented reality—one in which Pokémon are all around us, all over the world. The app will track your location and let you know when you’re near a Pokémon. You can then do battle with the Pokémon to capture it for your collection, or do battle with other Pokémon trainers to level up your stats.
Coming out alongside the app is a smart wearable called the Pokémon GO Plus. It can be worn like a watch or just carried in a pocket. The GO Plus uses Bluetooth technology to communicate with your phone and let you know when something is happening in the game, like when there’s a Pokémon nearby, so you don’t need to be staring at your phone all day everyday to participate. You can even do simple actions like throwing Pokéballs by pressing the button in the center of the device (which glows in rainbow colors).
Pokémon GO is being developed by The Pokémon Company, Nintendo, and Niantic Inc., the company behind GPS-augmented-reality game Ingress, which makes a lot of sense. Ingress is all about discovering and hacking portals for your team. The portals are located on top of real-world landmarks, encouraging its players to get out and explore in order to succeed at the game.
“Ingress really impressed me and I got really into the game,” said Pokémon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara (with the help of a translator) at a press conference, “At the same time I felt that it shared a philosophy with the Pokémon games, and that if we were to, for example, team up with the developer Niantic, we could create all-new Pokémon game worlds.”
If you watch the trailer above, you’ll notice that it seems primarily targeted at adults, rather than kids. This is an interesting development for The Pokémon Company, which tends to target itself at kids despite having a huge audience of adult fans. Pokémon premiered in the U.S. in the ’90s, when I was a kid, and that generation of fans is all grown up now. But kids will certainly not be left out of the equation.
“It was our collective goal that this would be a wholesome, fun game that families can enjoy together,” said John Hanke, CEO of Niantic, “It would be an excuse to go outside, get some fresh air, and maybe discover some new places together.”
Pokémon GO is also really similar to Geocaching, which is all about discovering secret “caches” hidden all over the world. Check out our podcast this week for more info on Geocaching—we were joined by a special guest from Geocaching HQ!
The late, great Satoru Iwata came up several times during the press conference. Pokémon GO is one of the projects he was working on when he passed away in July.
Honestly, this game seems totally inevitable to me. Augmented-reality games have been around for years, and they fit in perfectly with the spirit of Pokémon. Remember that Pokémon April Fool’s prank that Google Maps pulled in 2014? It was awesome! It’s too bad though that this new game sounds like it’s part of the Lara Croft GO, Hitman GO mobile game series. For the record, it is totally unrelated.
Another question: will Pokémon GO become popular enough to pull in amiibo technology? Amiibos use a similar augmented-reality principle, and even if they don’t get incorporated with this AR Pokémon installment, they will certainly be getting their time in the Pokémon spotlight soon enough. Especially now that there are amiibo cards coming out.