Since the announcement of Pokémon GO — AKA Pokémon in real life — fans have wanted to know more. Will we have to sail to the middle of the ocean if we want to catch a Kyogre? Will this game be about collecting badges like the mainstream Pokémon games? As it turns out, that will be a part of it — though you're not likely to find a gym just down the road from your house.
John Hanke and Mike Quigley from Pokémon GO developer Niantic recently sat down for a chat with Venture Beat to answer some of our questions. Most excitingly, they confirmed that Pokémon gyms will be making an appearance in the world of Pokémon GO, as well as going into more detail about how Pokémon appearances will work. They also talked about their approach to making the game accessible and fun for all players, whether they live in a big city or a remote town. Thankfully, Niantic has a lot of experience in this area already thanks to the location-based game called Ingress that it currently runs.
Our goal is to make it so you can walk out of the house and within five minutes, you can find Pokémon. It may not be the most rare Pokémon in the world, but there’ll be a population of Pokémon living near all our players. 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. 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. But you can trade. If you live in a place with lots of water Pokémon and you come to an event — we have these Ingress events that are getting bigger and bigger.
Trading has always been a huge part of Pokémon games, at least for the people who are serious about their goal to collect them all, and although Pokémon GO is not your average Pokémon game, Niantic are doing their best to make sure it still feels like one.
He [Nintendo programmer Junichi Masuda] advises us on game design for Pokémon and helps make sure that we keep true to the franchise, the history of all the handheld games they’ve done. They’re so excited about this as a new version of the game that’s never been done before. It’s not like it’s just another rev of the handheld game. 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.
Although it is being made as a Pokémon game before anything else, Niantic is also putting their own unique flavour into it — the emphasis on real world locations and experiences that led to them creating Ingress in the first place. Hanke shares more information on the social goals behind the game, and what players are likely to gain from it — beyond just a collection of cute Pokémon:
The places that you’ll interact with in the real world — historical sites, artwork, prominent or special local businesses, those will play a role in Pokémon Go just as they would for us. That same mechanic of encouraging people to take a walk in the park and see some aspect of their city they haven’t seen before, to go explore a nook or cranny in a part of the city they haven’t been to before so they can get a new Pokémon, that will be at work. Measuring how far people have walked and all of that will have specific payoffs for players in Pokémon Go.
There's also good news for those people wanting to be a part of a real-world Team Rocket — Hanke says that rival teams are definitely going to be a part of the world of Pokemon GO, just like Ingress's two overarching teams. "There will be teams to join in Pokémon, more than two. Those teams will compete against one another."
Fan reactions so far have suggested that Pokémon GO could end up becoming a pretty major thing, and Niantic is expecting no less from the most hardcore fans of the game. "You can’t get all of them by yourself. If you want all of them you’ll have to trade with other players. Or you have to be someone who takes time off work and travels the world for a year. There may be people who do that."