Pokémon Go: a brief history

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© NextPit

More than just a way to discover dead bodies and irritate law enforcement, Pokémon Go is  an augmented reality multiplayer smartphone game that has quickly amassed a huge amount of interest. But where does it all come from? Indeed, what even is a Pokémon? Here’s a brief history of a phenomenon 20 years in the making.

A bug collector's fantasy

Pokémon is a Japanese creation. The man responsible for it, Satoshi Tajiri, was inspired by a childhood fascination with collecting bugs. The main games in the series are developed by Game Freak and published by Nintendo. Pokémon's golden years shone through the late nineties and early 2000s, starting with Pokémon Red and Blue, which were released for the Game Boy in the US in 1998.

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Each version of the first Pokémon games, Red and Blue, offered some unique Pokémon. / ©

What is Pokémon?

The duo of games were essentially role-playing games (RPGs) that saw players control a character who wondered a coastal landscape, dotted with towns, forest and mountains. The land, called Kanto, was inhabited by a cast of strange and wonderful creatures, Pokémon, which the player was tasked with capturing in Pokéballs in order to catalog, train and fight them. The morality of keeping wild creatures in quantum states within tiny red and white balls and training them for exhausting and violent physical combat is widely ignored throughout the Pokémon universe.

The first Pokémon games featured 151 Pokémon scattered about Kanto, and the catchphrase “gotta catch ‘em all” urged players on to complete their Pokédex, an encyclopedia of all the Pokémon in existence. The task of catching ‘em all was made increasingly difficult through successive entries in the franchise, with over 720 Pokémon appearing in the sixth generation of the games.

While Nintendo feared that the concept might not appeal to the Western market, it was a huge success, most notably spawning a trading card game and TV anime series, which popularized Ash and Pikachu as the faces of the franchise. The term Pokémania was coined to put a name to the web of merchandise, movies and monster toys that sprang up, swallowing millions of dollars and launching Pokémon into the stratosphere.

The morality of keeping wild creatures in quantum states within tiny red and white balls and training them for exhausting and violent physical combat is widely ignored throughout the Pokémon universe

Demand for new Pokémon games has barely dwindled. The latest in the series, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, released in 2014, proved the most successful UK launch of any of the titles.

Pokémon Go

The concept for Pokémon Go began life as an April Fool's prank in 2014. Niantic, owned by Google at the time, and Nintendo teamed up to create a YouTube video that announced the Pokémon Challenge, a Google Maps-based search for Pokémon that would reward the most diligent hunters with the title of Pokémon Master.

This short-lived escapade formed long-lasting ties between Niantic and Nintendo. The idea of developing an augmented reality Pokémon game took a step towards reality, and, in 2015, The Pokémon Company announced that Niantic and Nintendo were working together to produce Pokémon Go. 

Pokémon Go represents a colossal next step for the franchise

The game sees users move an avatar across a real-world map using the phone's GPS. Dotted around the world are PokéStops, which can be used to gather Pokéballs and other in-game items, and gyms, where players can train their Pokémon. When a Pokémon appears on the map, you can press on it. When you do this, the Pokémon appears in augmented reality, superimposed onto the image seen through the phone's camera, allowing you to throw Pokéballs at it until you capture it.

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Pokémon Go uses a stylized map of your real-world surroundings. / © NextPit

Pokémon Go launched in the US earlier this month and made a rapid ascent. News stories across the web hailed its meteoric rise above Tinder, heading for Twitter. Tales of robberies, dead bodies and serendipitous friendships also proliferated, all adding to the publicity, allure and concern over the game. 

Niantic's servers were overloaded by the amount of people playing the game, leading to a delayed international launch, with users in Asia and Europe still waiting for a chance to play the game through official channels.

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Pokémon Go involves a lot of walking around staring at your phone. / © NextPit

At the moment, the game is the focus of global attention and a potential milestone in mobile gaming, augmented reality and the applications of smartphones. Whether it can sustain and build upon this platform is yet to be seen, but Pokémon, from the humble beginnings of a child gathering insects from the streams and forest of rural Japan, has cut a unique and lucrative path, with Pokémon Go representing a colossal next step for the franchise.

What are your thoughts on Pokémon Go? Are you excited, scared and indifferent?

Chris Marshall

Chris Marshall

Chris is a graduate in English and Philosophy and habitual tamperer with technology. A recent convert to Android, through the marvel of the Samsung Galaxy S6, he looks to share the fruits of this technological honeymoon through AndroidPIT.

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  • mubarak lawal Jul 14, 2016 Link to comment

    I usr my phonw while i walk and i have been. Looking for a way to stop the habit not to make it worse

  • WickedSweetDreamz Jul 13, 2016 Link to comment

    I'm old enough to remember when Nintendo first came out and I have always loved video games though I haven't played any in a while. That said, I remember watching the cartoon, which an ex boyfriend of mine was into, but I have never played any version of the games. I just had a neighbor ask me earlier today while I was taking a walk if I was looking for Pokemon and I had no idea what he was talking about until now. I'm kind of on the fence between thinking it might be cool and thinking it's patently ridiculous and definitely a waste of battery life ,as well as mobile data which doesn't apply to me though because I have an unlimited talk, text, and data plan. But I'm sure it would matter to a lot of people.

  • Dean L. Jul 13, 2016 Link to comment

    I never understood those game when my kids played it but thanks to this article I now have a better understanding of it. Curiosity has me looking at it but I haven't downloaded it yet.

  • Flávio Jul 13, 2016 Link to comment

    Even for people who aren't big fans or even don't like pokemon it has sparked curiosity, the game has spawned a variety of curious stories, from small accidents to people who have social anxiety or agoraphobia leaving their houses spontaneously and meeting new people and enjoying being outdoors.

    The game, if played following the ingame advice "always pay atention to your surroundings" is truly very fun and i think there is a nostalgia factor involved, when fans born in the late 80s, 90s feel like they are children again and have a lot to teach to this new generation.. Even if the game is flawed to some it is definitely a childhood dream come true thanks to technology.

  • lianne john Jul 13, 2016 Link to comment

    Good info, could make use of it:)

  • Lalit
    • Admin
    Jul 13, 2016 Link to comment

    Well where to find this app @Chris ?? I can't find it on PlayStore :(

    • Chris Marshall Jul 13, 2016 Link to comment

      The global release is yet to happen. In the meantime, an APK is the only way to get it. I'll leave it to you to find the file, though.

  • Vinicius. G. Romero Jul 13, 2016 Link to comment

    Amazing article! Just... fantastic. As an early 90's kid, this article brings me back to the good old days. 8bit screens, pixels, link cables. Gotta catch em' all.

    But nostalgia aside, I think this game is a total battery waste for smartphones haha. Think about it really, AR activated, then the camera, and as well as the GPS location constantly on: I mean that's just asking for a dead battery.

    But that being said:

    • Arpit Saini Jul 13, 2016 Link to comment

      you forgot mobile data which is the biggest battery sucker xD.

      Game is honestly something I and maybe half the planet dreamed of.... atleast it's close enough

      btw to catch them will be your real test........... and to train them will be your cause

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