Gathering the evidence. Identifying the certainties, probabilities and possibilities.
You would be quite hard pressed to not have come across Pokémon GO at this point. It carries twenty years worth of hope and dreams, from current fans to old, even piquing the interest of those who have not touched their Gameboys for almost two decades. So what is Pokémon GO? Although I am sure it is unnecessary to explain, for the sake of a well-rounded article I offer the following brief summary: Pokémon GO is a location based application for smart phones that aims to get you to go out, capture, train and battle Pokémon in the real world. Nothing has ever come this close to fulfilling the life-long dream that all Pokémon fans have shared since the very first time we twisted round our cap, grabbed our rucksack, and left pallet town. The potential to deliver is there.
According to a recent Ingress report, Pokémon GO will have a closed beta this Winter, with the final application being released early 2016. Youtube seems to be the origin of the popular rumor that the application will be released February 27th to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the launch of the original Gameboy games in Japan, although Niantic’s official twitter account insists it is not yet ready to announce an official release date. Additionally, Niantic have urged us not to be fooled by fake beta sign-up sites that have been floating around.
Niantic, a former Google start-up, are working together with Nintendo and the Pokémon Company to make this application a reality. Jun’ichi Masuda (one of the original creators and director of new main-series Pokémon games), as well as Tsunekazu Ishihara (President of the Pokémon Company) are also working closely with Niantic to make sure this entry stays true to the spirit of Pokémon. Niantic’s significant industry presence in Japan can be attributed to Ingress, a location-based smart phone application that has lead to a niche yet undeniable social phenomenon. Having now tried Ingress myself, I have learnt a lot of new things about the very area that I grew up in, and made discoveries that I would not have otherwise. The marriage of these different parties has so much potential, and I can’t wait to see what Pokémon GO has in store for us.
This article will gather everything that we currently know about Pokémon GO in one place, for the purpose of identifying features that will be present in the final product. By looking at the evidence we can read between the lines to make predictions. I invite all of you to join in via the comment section, we can update the article or even make a follow up one. With that all out of the way, let the journey begin!
It has been suggested that wild Pokémon can be obtained by physically walking towards a location where they have appeared. It has also been said that no matter where you are, you should always be able to find a Pokémon within five minutes. “Certain Pokémon will only exist in certain parts of the world” meaning that to ‘catch ’em all’ will be no easy task, you will actively have to meet up and trade at events, and Niantic even expect that some people will take time off from work to travel the world.
With the aid of Pokémon GO, we will see real life trainers having more in common with their fictional counterparts from the TV series and games. Chances are that people who do not get around much will have an army of their local Pokémon, and be proficient at using them in battle. The sheer scale of what Pokémon GO could offer us is both daunting and exciting. This level of immersion is is what many of us have always dreamed of, which means it will not always be easy. Or at least it should not be if it has been executed correctly. It will be a true challenge that will force us to explore out and about. I say bring it on.
Region Specific Pokémon?
As mentioned in the last section, we now have official confirmation that some Pokémon will only be available in certain parts of the world. Kangaskhan an Australian exclusive? Flabébé only in France? Pancham only in China? Only time will tell, but what kind of exclusives could you see as plausible? Let us know in the comments!
“Pokémon will live in different parts of the world depending on what type of Pokémon they are. Water Pokémon will live near the water. It may be that certain Pokémon will only exist in certain parts of the world. Very rare Pokémon may exist in very few places” – John Hanke.
Trading has always been core to Pokémon games, and yet there has still been no confirmation on how trading will work in Pokémon GO. How trading will be handled could take one of two different routes. There could be a type of GTS-like system, where you can trade with people all around the world, much like the one we take for granted in the core games. The problem is that this would defeat the purpose of having to leave your house and travel far to catch ’em all. This is core to what Niantic are trying to create here, and so a GTS-like system could prove hazardous to their goals. Not to mention that it would make it easy for trainers to buy their way to victory by relying on the online Pokémon smugglers of eBay.
Limiting trading to ‘local’ only would assure the most authentic Pokémon experience, though in this age where everyone is connected Niantic may be hesitant to commit to just that. It is possible that they choose to meet somewhere in the middle, by allowing trading only with registered friends, although this will not stop the online buying and selling of Pokémon. It will be interesting to to see the final format of trading, please share your thoughts speculate below in the comments.
“Pokémon trading is going to be huge. You can’t get all of them by yourself. If you want all of them you’ll have to trade with other players” – John Hanke.
Although in general I am very optimistic for Pokémon GO, there is one concern that I feel I need to get off of my chest. We may be overlooking something that is very possibly a deal breaker. We haven’t actually seen a wild battle yet, only wild Pokémon have balls hurled at them. Do we even battle in the traditional way by choosing a Pokémon for battle and selecting attacks? Is it perhaps like the Pokéwalker in which you do have a Pokémon with you and can attack, but there are no moves to choose from? Or, perhaps in the worst case scenario, are we just throwing balls, rocks and Pokéblocks like in the safari zone?
Potentially there could be a lot of disappointed fans, but a lack of traditional battles is a possibility that we have yet to rule out. This includes battles with other trainers, as potentially even these could be automated when encountering someone. The fact that the Pokémon GO Plus allows you to catch nearby Pokémon without even having to know what they are, all by pressing the flashing button (s?) in sequence would also support the idea that the battling may not be very advanced.
My cynical side can see how not providing the full battle experience on an app would also be an effective way of keeping the main series relevant. What do you guys think? I bring up this possibility only because there is nothing I can see to entirely disprove it, and so I decided to share it with you to discuss. Are my concerns unlikely to manifest? Would a lack of traditional battling ruin Pokémon GO for you?
If we are to read into the Pokémon GO announcement trailer beyond that of a mere demonstration of what could be, items such as Pokéballs, Super Potions and even Honey seem to exist. Honey seems quite interesting; could you spread honey in a certain location and come back later in the day to see if it has attracted a Pokémon?
Where will we get items? Will we pick them up during our travels? Will there be in-app-purchases for easier access to items? It has already been confirmed that certain places act as Pokémon centers on the map, including your home which you can register, will these locations also provide a Pokémart? It has also been confirmed that exploring around and meeting certain goals when walking will have “payoffs” for trainers. This kind of reward system is very much in line with Pokémon’s previous pedometer-related venture, the Pokéwalker, and comes as no surprise. This could mean rarer Pokémon or rarer items, only time will tell!
“Measuring how far people have walked and all of that will have specific payoffs for players in Pokémon Go” – John Hanke.
The presence of Pokémon Gyms in Pokémon GO was confirmed a while back now, but how exactly will they work? Will there be eight? Will they each feature a brand new Gym Leader? Will they be at specific locations? Will each be unlocked after a certain amount of steps? Not much is known other than they will supposedly be “rare” and take a “little more effort to get there”.
“Gyms will be a bit more rare. You want to find gyms so you can level up your Pokémon and battle there, so it will take a little more effort to get there” – John Hanke.
To what extent will Pokémon GO represent a Pokémon game? Will it be a vanilla app where you can catch, battle and trade? Or will there perhaps be more to it?
The presence of Gyms that was confirmed last month suggests that there will be more is store in terms of narrative than many initially expected. This was perhaps also hinted by Jun’ichi Masuda during the announcement conference when he mentioned he would contribute “world design” to the project. Niantic’s founder, John Hanke, even hinted that there will be some kind of story within Pokémon GO. It will be interesting to see if there will be a professor or a traditional starter given to you in the beginning of the game. Will this vary depending on region? Could there be Gym Leaders for each region? How much will go into making this so called ‘world’ that is actually our own?
It is worth noting that Niantic’s Ingress actually has an ever-growing fiction, including comics and novels affected directly by events in real life. The route the story takes depends on things such as the way players interact with the app, and the victories or losses of the two competing teams.
“I would expect there to be a narrative along with Pokémon, but some of that stuff we’re still working out” – John Hanke.
Teams and Battling
Niantic’s Ingress has two competing teams who fight over territory on a worldwide stage. Pokémon GO will also have competing teams, although how this will work has yet to be confirmed. Could we see leaderboards scoring each team on performance?
Niantic’s founder John Hanke suggests that there will be multiple teams to join, and that it will be like what has been seen in the fiction before. But what does that mean exactly? Traditionally “teams” in Pokémon represent the antagonists. Will Pokémon GO add something slightly new to the mix? A Magma versus Aqua type scenario? Could each team be named after game versions such as Team Red, Blue or Green? Or will there perhaps be an entirely different naming convention? How will the victories of each team affect the narrative like they do in Ingress? Is the group battle we saw in the announcement trailer perhaps meant to represent the different teams battling over territory?
But what about the battles themselves? How far do you have to be from someone to battle? Niantic has expressed interest in allowing those living in more remote areas to be able to interact with Pokémon GO. A way to get around a lack of inhabitants would be for the app to leave behind an AI opponent based on the parties of trainers who have passed through the area. Could battles actually be something like this instead of randomly initiating them with people nearby? Perhaps a mixture of both?
“There will be teams to join in Pokémon, more than two. Those teams will compete against one another” – John Hanke.
Events for Niantic’s Ingress have been held all over the world, with some of the more recent ones in Oakland, Milan and Okinawa. Thousands of people travel from all over the world to attend, and with Pokémon’s phenomenal reach Pokémon GO is sure to exceed these numbers. Niantic’s John Hanke has already confirmed that meet-ups for Pokémon GO are a done deal. It will be interesting to see all of the trading and battling that will go on, as well as what kind of exclusives that could be on offer. Could these “competitive” events also be a way to catch legendary Pokémon, such as the Mewtwo in the announcement trailer? Or perhaps events could act as the Pokémon league to decide which trainer who has collected each badge will become the champion?
“We’ll have events for Pokémon as well. Those are competitive, but they can also be places to trade stuff with other players” – John Hanke.
Pokémon GO Plus
The Pokémon GO Plus is an optional bluetooth device that will vibrate and flash in multiple colors when a Pokémon is nearby, without the necessity of being glued to your phone the whole time. This initiative is in part a way to encourage people to look around and enjoy the world we will be exploring, and is very much in line with Nintendo and Niantic’s company values. It should be noted that there is no “sound guide” on the device. Perhaps a missed opportunity, as the prospect of being able to hear a Pokémon’s cry through the device could have been quite cool. Will you be purchasing a Pokémon GO Plus? How will you be wearing it if so?
“Part of the idea of the game is, you’re outside and you can see beautiful things. If you’re always staring at your phone, you’re not seeing the world around you” – John Hanke.
In conclusion, much of Pokémon GO is still shrouded in mystery, but there are still some hints we have been given that we can ponder. Masuda Jun’ichi suggested that they are looking at ways Pokémon GO can connect to the main series, just how might this work? Additionally, Niantic’s founder John Hanke also suggested that Niantic is willing to evolve with the times, and would not be against implementing AR devices to work in conjunction with Pokémon GO when the time and technology is right. How this might work is still a mystery, but only time will tell!
Alas! Despite having gone through a lot of material we are left with some unanswered questions: We don’t know if we will see double or triple battles, the former being a staple for competitive battling, and what will become of mega evolution? When we will get definitive confirmation that Pokémon GO is not limited to first generation Pokémon Pokémon? Is it safe to say that IVs and EVs will not be part of Pokémon GO? What about breeding or egg moves? Judging from Hanke’s comments the focus for this iteration seems to be on simplicity, but it will be interesting to see what aspects are carried over.
“This is a Pokémon experience that’s brand new, and yet it goes back to the very origin of the franchise. It’s about a kid who goes out in the world and finds Pokémon. If you strip away a lot of the complexity and stuff that’s been added on, it’s the most basic expression of that concept” – John Hanke.
Finally, following is a Pokéjungle wish list for Pokémon GO. Just some food for thought. If you have any ideas post below and we can update the post!
Night and day exclusive Pokémon (Hoothoot, Gastly etc).
Gym Leaders differing for each region to encourage you to someday travel the world like a real Pokémon master.
Local rankings/scoreboard for Pokémon trainers.
It was a long article but thanks to everyone who read it, especially those who stuck through until the end! – Kriffix