Pokemon GO has only been out a week, and specificially only in three countries, but it already has had a massive impact. Nintendo Stock has risen, it’s been downloaded millions of times, and it looks to be the next true phenomenon.
It didn’t start that way though, it started as a simple idea from developer Niantic. The founder, John Hanke, talked with Game Informer about how the now revolutionary product came to be:
“So, we launched Ingress in 2012 – November 2012. Yeah, we’re growing that product and seeing it be a hit worldwide. And then in 2014 – I believe if that’s the right date – that year just keeps getting mixed up in my head, Google and The Pokémon Company did an April Fool’s joke around Google Maps, where Pokémon spontaneously appeared in Google Maps, which ended up being tremendously successful; it went viral. There’s a video about it that got umpteen million views. And so, within the Niantic team, we were thinking about, we built the game, it’s our intent to build a platform, what would be the next step towards growing the platform? And Pokémon was the idea that seemed incredibly obvious to us, given just the structure of the game, given the fact that it’s about chasing Pokémon and capturing Pokémon out in the real world seemed to be super natural to just substitute a mobile phone for the Pokémon and Pokédex. So we actually surfaced the idea with The Pokémon Company, there was interest, they were actually playing Ingress, and Mr. Ishihara, the CEO of the Pokémon company – I met him maybe a month later, and he was like a level 11 Ingress player, so he compulsively played. And his wife was a – and I guess they are still playing – his wife was a high-level Ingress agent as well. So, they’ve been playing together, then a lot of people in The Pokémon Company were Ingress players, so when we pitched this idea of a Pokémon-like game built on the concept that we’d built with Ingress it was very well-received. I mean, we both brought ideas, being the very obvious thing. And yeah, we started the project, and here we are.”
He also talked about how involved the Pokemon Company team was:
“You know, they stayed pretty involved. Junichi Masuda – he’s the producer on the new Pokémon game, he was a programmer going back to the very first Pokémon game – so he’s kind of their go-to guy for canon and the Pokémon universe. So, he has been an invaluable asset for us, he’s been involved in playtesting all the way through, and giving us lots of feedback and helping us shape an experience that’s true to the Pokémon world. I mean, it’s a great brand, it’s been around for 20 years. So, I would say that they’ve been very attentive and very involved with what we’re doing. They want to protect it and protect the brand. They perceive Go as a really wonderful evolution of the Pokémon universe.”