Pokémon Go (stylized Pokémon GO) is a free-to-play, location-based augmented reality game developed by Niantic for iOS and Android devices. The game was the result of a collaboration between Niantic and Nintendo, by way of The Pokémon Company, and was initially released in selected countries in July 2016. In the game, players use a mobile device’s GPS ability to locate, capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, who appear on the screen as if they were in the same real-world location as the player. The game supports in-app purchases for additional in-game items.
Pokémon Go was released to mixed reviews, with critics praising the game’s concept and the incentive to be more active in the real world, while criticizing frequent technical issues that were prevalent around the time of the original launch. Despite such reviews, it quickly became a global phenomenon and was one of the most used and profitable mobile apps in 2016, having been downloaded more than 500 million times worldwide. It was credited with popularizing location-based and augmented reality technology, promoting physical activity, and helping local businesses grow due to increased foot traffic. However, it also attracted controversy for contributing to various accidents, as well as becoming a public nuisance at some locations. Various governments also expressed concerns over the security of the game, with some countries passing legislation to regulate its use.
After establishing a game account, the player creates and customizes their own avatar. Once created, the avatar is displayed on a map based on the player’s geographical location. Features on the map include ‘PokéStops’ and ‘Pokémon gyms’. PokéStops provide players with items, such as eggs, Poké Balls, berries, and potions. These PokéStops can be equipped with items called ‘lure modules’, which attract additional wild, and occasionally rare, Pokémon. Gyms serve as battle locations for team-based king of the hill matches. PokéStops and gyms are typically located at places of interest. These locations are re-purposed portals from Ingress, Niantic’s previous augmented reality game. This has led to PokéStops and Pokémon gyms being placed at dangerous or inconvenient locations, such as a now deleted gym at the Korean DMZ
As players move within their real world surroundings, their avatar moves within the game’s map. Different Pokémon species reside in different areas of the world; for example, water-type Pokémon are generally found near water. When a player encounters a Pokémon, they may view it either in augmented reality (AR) mode or with a live rendered, generic background. AR mode uses the camera and gyroscope on the player’s mobile device to display an image of a Pokémon as though it were in the real world. Players can take screenshots of the Pokémon they encounter either with or without the AR mode activated.
Unlike other installments in the Pokémon series, players in Pokémon Go do not battle wild Pokémon to capture them. During an encounter with a wild Pokémon, the player may throw a Poké Ball at it by flicking it from the bottom of the screen up toward the Pokémon. If the Pokémon is successfully caught, it will come under the ownership of the player. Factors in the success rate of capture include the Pokémon’s capture rate, the timing and the type of Poké Ball used. After capturing a wild Pokémon, the player is awarded two types of in-game currencies: candies and stardust. The candies awarded by a successful catch depend on what evolutionary chain a Pokémon belongs to. A player can use stardust and candies to raise a Pokémon’s “combat power” (CP). However, only candies are needed to evolve a Pokémon. Each Pokémon evolution tree has its own type of candy, which can only be used to evolve or level up. The player can also transfer the Pokémon back to the Pokémon professor to earn one more candy and create room for more Pokémon. The ultimate goal of the game is to complete the entries in the Pokédex, a comprehensive Pokémon encyclopedia, by capturing and evolving to obtain the original 151 Pokémon.[note 2]
Although the game is free to play, it supports in-app purchases, where players can purchase additional Poké Balls and other in-game items. These items include incense (which attract Pokémon to you as you move for thirty minutes), lure modules, to attract Pokémon to a fixed location, and lucky eggs, which double experience points gained for a thirty-minute period from use. All Pokémon are displayed with a combat power. A Pokémon’s combat power is a rough measure of how powerful that Pokémon is in battle. Generally, as a player levels up they will catch Pokémon with higher CP.
Players earn experience points for various in-game activities. Players rise in level as they earn experience points. At level five, the player is able to battle at a Pokémon gym and join one of three color-coded teams (red for Team Valor, blue for Team Mystic, or yellow for Team Instinct), which act as factions within the Pokémon Go world. If players enter a Pokémon gym that is controlled by a player that is not part of their team, they can challenge the leader to lower the gym’s “prestige”. Once the prestige of a gym is lowered to zero, the player will take control of the gym and is able to deposit one Pokémon to defend it. Similarly, a team can upgrade the prestige of a gym under their control by battling the gym leader. Each time a gym’s level is raised, another player from the same team can deposit one of their Pokémon.
In September 2016, Niantic announced a “Buddy Pokémon” feature, which allows players to pick a Pokémon to appear alongside them on the profile screen, and receive in-game rewards and bonuses based on the chosen Pokémon. The feature was released later that month.] During that same update, Niantic updated Pokémon Go to prevent players with rooted or jailbroken devices from logging into the game in an effort to reduce and prevent cheating.
The concept for the game was conceived in 2014 by Satoru Iwata of Nintendo and Tsunekazu Ishihara of The Pokémon Company as an April Fools’ Day collaboration with Google, called the Google Maps: Pokémon Challenge. Ishihara was a fan of developer Niantic’s previous transreality game, Ingress, and saw the game’s concept as a perfect match for the Pokémon series. Niantic used the crowdsourced data from Ingress to populate the locations for PokéStops and gyms within Pokémon Go, and data from Google Maps to spawn specific Pokémon on certain terrain or environment. In 2015, Ishihara dedicated his speech at the game’s announcement on September 10 to Iwata, who had died two months earlier. The game’s soundtrack was written by longtime Pokémon series composer, Junichi Masuda, who also assisted with some of the game’s design. Among the game’s graphic designers was Dennis Hwang, who previously created the logo of Gmail while working for Google.
On March 4, 2016, Niantic announced a Japan-exclusive beta test would begin later that month, allowing players to assist in refining the game before its full release. The beta test was later expanded to other countries. On April 7, it was announced that the beta would expand to Australia and New Zealand.] Then, on May 16, the signups for the field test were opened to the United States. The test came to an end on June 30.
At Comic-Con 2016, John Hanke, founder of Niantic, revealed the appearances of the three team leaders: Candela (Team Valor), Blanche (Team Mystic), and Spark (Team Instinct). Hanke conveyed that approximately 10% of the ideas for the game were implemented. Future updates, including the addition of trading, more Pokémon, implementation of Pokémon Centers at PokéStops, a patch for the “three step glitch”, and easier training, were also confirmed. He also stated that Niantic would be continuing support for the game for “years to come”. In an interview with TechCrunch in September 2016, Hanke hinted that player vs. player Pokémon battles would be released in a future update. In December 2016, coffeehouse chain Starbucks and telecommunications company Sprint collaborated with Nintendo to add PokéStops and gyms at certain locations of theirs throughout the United States. That same month, a companion app for Apple Watch devices was released, which allows users to receive notifications about nearby Pokémon, but does not allow for them to be caught. In January 2017, an additional 5,000 more Starbucks locations became available as gyms.
On February 16, 2017, an update was released that brought a range of 100 species based in the Johto region from the second generation of the core Pokémon series which were added alongside the original 151, as well as the addition of new berries, new Pokémon encounter mechanics, and an expanded selection of avatar clothing options.
Pokémon Go Plus
The Pokémon Go Plus is a Bluetooth low energy wearable device, developed by Nintendo’s Platform Technology Development division, that allows players to perform certain actions in the game without looking at their smart device. When a player is near a Pokémon or PokéStop, the Plus vibrates.The player can then press the button to capture the Pokémon or receive items from the PokéStop; the player cannot check what they have received until the next time they sign into the app on their mobile device.The design consists of a Poké Ball and the shape of the Google Maps pin.The decision to create the device rather than create a smart watch app was to increase uptake among players for whom a smart watch is prohibitively expensive. It was released in the United Kingdom and North America on September 16, 2016.