Three gaming industry heavyweights are partnering for a new Pokémon Go game where players track, catch and battle miniature monsters in the real world with wearable tech. And what's more, it will be available for smartphones and tablets.
The Pokémon Company, Niantic and Nintendo are collaborating on the game for iOS and Android that will release in 2016. While previous Pokémon games have used real world locations as inspiration for its worlds, this is a significant departure for the game as it literally takes players to the streets.
The experience is further augmented by a wearable Pokémon Go Plus gadget that appears to use smartphone GPS location to alert players when they are geographically near Pokémon that can be caught. Developed by Nintendo, the gadget uses haptic and light-up alerts and can be responded to by the player pressing a button that triggers in-game actions.
This may sound like a side project to dyed-in-the-wool Pokémon fans, but make no mistake this is central to the ongoing strategy for Pokémon. It may also hint at future efforts on mobile from Nintendo and its NX Console.
Although not mentioned, it also seems likely that the Pokémon Go Plus gadget may include some Near Field Communication technology so it could work with Nintendo’s Amiibo figurines and unlock additional Pokémon or perhaps outfits and special abilities.
On the Pokémon side, game director Junichi Masuda will be ensuring the project has the quality and feel of a Pokémon game. This will be important to balance the emergent gameplay and how the new game relates to the historic series.
The augmented reality side of the project is being headed up by Niantic. Founded by Google Earth co-creator John Hanke, it has made a name for itself in global AR experiences such as Ingress. “Pokémon Go is a wonderful combination of Niantic’s real world gaming platform and one of the most beloved franchises in popular culture,” he said.
The gameplay mechanics break down into four distinct phases in the trailer. You can detect and collect Pokémon in the world about you, trade collected Pokémon with friends directly on their smartphones, battle other Pokémon and finally attend timed public battles in specific locations.
The wearable technology combined with augmented gameplay is similar to Disney’s upcoming Playmation offering although the battles take place on screen once Pokémon are encountered in the real world.
It’s ambitious stuff although raises as many questions as it answers, not least how it relates to the other Pokémon games and Wii U and 3DS hardware. With the game touted for launch in 2016 we should learn more in the coming months.