Many moons ago before I would head into school, I worked my way through breakfast watching Pokémon but The Animated Show was as far as I took my fandom. I played Pokémon Snap and Pokémon Rumble on Nintendo 64 but that was it. I steered clear of the trading cards, DS series, and anything else Pokémon related that came my way.
Imagine my surprise as I kept seeing several articles and videos about a forthcoming game, Pokémon Go, and found myself thinking how much I wanted to play it.
I have been a member of the Geocaching community for years. For those of you scratching your head, Geocaching is a global treasure hunting game where people hide items of various sizes all over the world, and use a GPS device to tag the location coordinates to its server. By using their Application and any GPS capable device, users can track down an item hidden by anyone, anywhere in the world. From what I have been able to derive from the information available, Pokémon Go is going to be quite similar.
In development by Niantic, with financing from Google, Nintendo, and The Pokémon Company, Pokémon Go uses those same principles, utilizing your cellphone’s Google Maps locator to put you in a universe fully populated by Pokémon characters. Once your phone syncs with the network, according to an interview with Niantic’s CEO John Hanke on VentureBeat, you will only be a short walk from some Pokémon.
“Our goal is to make it so you can walk out of the house and within five minutes, you can find Pokémon,” Hanke said. “It may not be the most rare Pokémon in the world, but there will be a population of Pokémon living near all our players.”
The main thing I find interesting about this is that with Geocaching, the items are placed and unless put back incorrectly, they do not move. You simply need to move to new markers to find new ones. with Pokémon Go, it seems that the further you travel, the more Pokémon will be available for you to capture and fight. Why does this matter? Because this is a game that will encourage people to get off of their asses and go do something! A thing that Microsoft, Nintendo, and PlayStation has been failing to accomplish with their Kinect, Wii, and Eye/Camera systems.
Now, as excited as I am to try this out next year, I became a little worried as I watched the trailer. In the image above, you can see a few health items, and multiple Poké Ball’s. They are announcing Pokémon Go as a free to play game, but what will they make you do to unlock Poké Ball’s and other items in order to let you play?
If I show up to catch a Level 10 Pokémon, will I have to buy a Level 10 Poké Ball? Will I only be allowed to join a team event if I pay? Does it cost money to trade? If one of my Pokémon are defeated, do I have to pay to revive them or is their a cool down system? There are as many questions as answers raised in the interview, but if we look at Ingress, Niantic’s first foray into the Augmented Reality world, we can see they do utilize a lot of micro-transactions for better abilities, items, and more.
My chief concern, would be whether or not this game is play to win. The trailer has several interesting moments with multiple people joining in a match and throwing their Pokémon characters into a full team based battle.
“There will be teams to join in Pokémon Go,” said Hanke. “Those teams will compete against one another…with different gyms and teams and trainers.”
You can join in and play with anyone, but if I am playing for free, and someone else is spending as much money as someone in World of Warcraft or Clash of Clans, do I even stand a chance?
When spring gets here, I love the idea of being able to sync up my phone, and venture out into my local city and parks to find rare Pokémon to capture and battle. Arguably, the most interesting moment in the trailer is the Timed Community Event at the end of the trailer. Niantic isn’t saying much about this now, but it would appear that on a regular basis, big events will be held for people to join in and take part in. Mewtwo is shown fighting several (hundred) Pokémon all at one time.
These events may stand to be the biggest push to get people involved, and it really comes down to the rewards system. Will everyone that takes part get to take Mewtwo home or will there be separate items granted for participation? If Niantic wants to get several hundred people to go out into the world and try to take down this one Pokémon, the benefit has to outweigh the cost of travel.
Again, looking at Ingress, they have had several successful community events that are similar to LARPing. Where the pockets of participants vary from region to region, but it has a definite dedicated following. If they can pull this off and make Pokémon Go a household name and as downloaded as Fallout Shelter or the aforementioned Clash of Clans, this could pave the way for more developers of more titles to get involved and try this sort of thing out on their properties.
So, what do you think? Are you excited to get off your couch and hunt some Pokémon in your neighborhood? What platforms do you think would benefit from an Augmented Reality treatment? Do you think this whole thing is a cash grab and a waste of time ?Let us know in the comments below!
Devon McCarty was put on this earth to have salon quality hair and get way too excited for video games, movies, and music. You can chat to him on the Analog Addiction Facebook page, follow his daily life on Twitter and/or Instagram @DesignatedDevon, or drop some sweet love in the comment section below.