Pokemon Go Origins: From ‘Google split’ to becoming a phenomenon, all you need to know

By: | Updated: July 12, 2016 11:37 AM

Everyone is catching the Pokemon fever, with after laying low for a few years the franchise has made a comeback and has made fans chase virtual monsters on real life city streets.

Pokemon go, pokemon go game, nintendo, nintendo, nintendo pokemon, nintendo news, nintendo pokemon go, nintendo pokeman games, nintendo market value, Nintendo Co japan, japan share news, pokemon new game, android devices, pokemon game charactersPokemon Go: A smartphone app that has fans chasing Pokemon characters like Pikachu, through real-world city streets and is being loved by fans all over. (Picture: Reuters)

Pokemon Go: Everyone is catching the Pokemon fever, with after laying low for a few years the franchise has made a comeback and has made fans chase virtual monsters on real life city streets.

John Hanke, CEO of “Pokemon Go” developer Niantic believes it is not a normal game and that is the reason why it’s become such a phenomenon.

“The game itself is intended to facilitate the real-life stuff,” Hanke told in an interview to Business Insider, “the reward is the encouragement and opportunity to go out and have new experiences, not the big scene at the end where the boss dies.”

The aim was to make something relatable to fans of the classic Pokemon games, including catching and battling, but that was “more accessible to people who don’t have the time or willingness to learn the more demanding systems of the original games (which included ‘evolving’ which turns a Pokemon into a new stronger form).” But that might be on the cards soon.

The game had some basic purposes to make it different in the league. It competes against other fitness apps in a very novel way. “Pokemon Go is designed to get you up and moving by promising you Pokemon as rewards, rather than placing pressure on you,” Hanke said.

By making people see the world around them in a new way also helps the user in interactions with the neighbourhood and other users.

Hanke said “Pokemon Go is an ‘icebreaker’ that gives people a reason to spend time together.”

It’s like no other game out there, Pokemon or otherwise. That’s great news for Nintendo and its share price, which has skyrocketed on the indication that it can thrive in a smartphone-driven world.

Niantic was earlier known for a game called “Ingress” that where players had to explore the world around them and claim territory. The game at a point of time had millions of players around the world.

Niantic, to make ‘Pokemon Go’, took a lot of data from “Ingress” and a lot of the lessons it learned about keeping players safe.

Hanke says, ‘Ingress’ was always intended to be kind of a proof-of-concept for ways in which Google and Niantic could help outside partners and customers build their own games.

“Our intent was to make a platform for many different experiences,” Hanke said.

The Pokemon Company is a joint venture with Pokemon game developer Game Freak, toy maker Creatures, and Nintendo all holding an equal stake, in owning the Pokemon copyright.

Haneke says, “Google Maps plus Pokemon was ‘like chocolate and peanut butter’ which gave birth to an idea. Google and the Pokemon Company first collaborated on April Fools’ Day in 2014, when an extremely viral game challenged players to find Pokemon via the Google Maps mobile apps.

The April Fool’s day joke was love so much by people that Niantic pitched on the game to Nintendo and the Pokemon Company which later became Pokemon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara, already a fan of “Ingress”, agreed.

Nintendo realised that it was lagging behind in the smartphone era and was willing to experiment with Niantic to turn things around. Then, Nintendo’s CEO Late Saotoru Iwata gave his highest approval to the project.

Then a ‘split’ with Google happened, in early 2015, when the latter was contemplating about about spinning non-core businesses off into a holding company called Alphabet.

It was then that the idea of Niantic “perhaps becoming its own thing surfaced,” Hanke said.

Niantic couldn’t be given special treatment over any other developer using Google platforms, or those other developers might get upset and look for alternatives.

“We were always kind of bumping up against Google’s desire to stay neutral,” Hanke said.

Niantic in turn opened up its doors to work with other customers and partners who might have been scared off by the prospect of working with a superpower like Google.

“The values and needs of certain customers were ‘not always aligned with Google,’ Hanke added.

It only helped Niantic’s cause as Nintendo and the Pokemon Company if they held a financial stake in the venture, could “open up and share more” if they had certain ownership in the product.

Everything fell into place when Niantic, in late 2015, spun off with Google, Nintendo, and the Pokemon Company all participating in a $ 20 million investment round to kick things off.

Hanke has only praise for the process of working with The Pokemon Company, its main collaborator on the project.

The most interesting thing was that the Pokemon Company loved “Ingress,” and Niantic loved the Pokemon series, and they each wanted the game to be more like the other.
Both the companies shared crucial elements like 3-D models and sounds for the Pokemon themselves, making ‘Pokemon Go’ true to the classic games.

Junichi Masuda, the composer of the classic soundtrack on the original “Pokemon Red and Blue,”created a new music score for ‘Pokemon Go’.

“Masuda, helped Niantic develop “Pokemon Go’s” signature “capture” mechanic of throwing Poke Balls with precision at the monsters,” Hanke said.

“We honored the spirit of the original game,” Hanke said. “I like where we landed.”

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