What do you get when you take the most successful mobile augmented reality (AR) game ever and combine it with a Google Maps April Fools Day prank? Well as it turns out you get Pokemon GO, perhaps the most anticipated mobile game ever - which is set to drop sometime this year for iOS and Android (sorry Windows Phone users, but honestly you should've learned your lesson by now).
What we know of the specifics of Pokémon GO has been well documented by this point as we wait for new information to be released by Nintendo and game developers Niantic Inc., but do you know where Pokémon GO takes its origins from?
Google's Pokémon Challenge
A couple years back - in 2014 - Google Maps teamed up with The Pokémon Company for a pretty special April Fools day prank. Well, it was less of a prank really and more of an Easter egg flavoured feature.
On the 1st April 2014 Pokémon were added around the world on the Google Map app for iOS and Android, each in it's own set location. Map users could "catch" the virtual Pokémon by zooming into their location and tapping on the Pokémon. Catch all 150 (yep, first generation only I'm afraid) and you got a "Pokémon Master" prize from Google.
It's not difficult to see the parallels between the Google Pokémon Challenge and Niantic's upcoming Pokémon GO, but Niantic Japan President Setsuto Murai and marketing manager Kento Suga recently spoke a little about how the project developed from there,
Murai: "Before we went independent, we were a group in charge of [handling] Google Maps in Google. Do you remember that we had a “Pokemon Challenge” for April Fools in 2014? That Pokemon Challenge was a chance for us to be able to build relations with people at Pokemon, and then [Pokémon] president [Tsunekazu] Ishihara and John [Hanke, CEO of Niantic] were able to meet and talk. At that time both of their thoughts and visions were also very close, and as a union of their spirit, the talk became "Let’s do something together in the future".
This echoes the words of Niantic CEO John Hanke as he recalls his initial meeting between The Pokémon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara who he describes as a "high level Ingress player".
It was this meeting and Ishihara's love for Ingress which led to the creation of Pokémon GO in the first place, so not only do we have Google to thank, but also Niantic's flagship AR game.
Ingress is the brainchild of Niantic and quite possibly the most successful AR game to date, becoming massively successful since it was first released two years ago.
Ingress is a location based augmented reality MMORPG for iOS and Android which utilises AR tech as it involves players finding portals throughout the real world and linking them together to create geographical control fields. The more control fields you have the more mind units you capture and "control", which affects your progress in the game. Ingress currently has around 7 million players using the app worldwide, so there's precedent for success there.
This previous success combined with the Pokémon name could be the thing that manages to make Pokémon GO a reality, and if this works it could have a knock on affect on the genre of AR games, a currently underdeveloped section of gaming.
Pokémon GO is set to essentially be the marriage of Ingress and the Google April Fools prank, with the concept of the Pokémon Challenge mapped onto Ingress mechanics.
Will it succeed though? Only time (and that much anticipated release date) will tell.