Niantic on the origins of Pokemon GO

Niantic goes back to the beginning of the phenomenon

Pokemon GO was one of the biggest phenomenons of 2016 in the gaming industry. Millions of smartphone users downloaded the app and spent hours trying to catch ’em all in the real life. The fascination around this game was so huge that it had an impact on markets outside video games, we could see it EVERYWHERE. But now, the trend has calmed down and guys at Niantic Labs can take the time to reveal us how the game came to life.

During a panel at Santa Clara’s AOD Convention, David Hollin (Technical artist & Designer at Niantic) shared lots of memories on the origins of Pokemon GO. From how it all started to where it will go next, here’s a full retranscription of the panel, thanks to Reddit user bureika:

  • Pokemon GO started as an April Fool’s joke by Google in 2014
  • Niantic CEO John Hanke thought it would make for a fun actual game, so he tried contacting the Pokemon Company
  • The Pokemon Co. CEO was a huge fan of Ingress, Niantic’s previous game
  • the idea to move ahead was made, and Pokemon Co. wanted the game to be simple and unique
  • Niantic’s main goal in creating Pokemon GO was to get people to walk around outside
  • the secondary goal was to get people to notice nearby landmarks and hopefully interact with other players
  • the game originally started with the player throwing Pokeballs by pressing a button
  • there was no control over how far or curved your throw would be
  • before AR was considered, Niantic fiddled with the idea of using Google Earth images and superimposing Pokemon
  • this would have required users to download huge images and would not have been practical
  • Hollin toyed with incorporating AR mode and his phone camera in his backyard and showed it to his coworkers
  • the idea was liked enough to implement into the final game
  • Niantic was in a time crunch to release Pokemon GO by Summer because otherwise
  • they wanted to get the game out when weather was good and players could get outside
  • when the game launched, Niantic had only two server engineers who had to work 24/7 in shifts to handle the server issues
  • the response was 50x what Niantic expected
  • Niantic keeps tabs on subreddits to see what bugs are being discovered
  • Niantic says “Battling is not the worst thing in the world, but it’s the worst thing in Pokemon GO.”
  • trading is being worked on, but Niantic is taking its “sweet time” to release it because it’s a veritable Pandora’s Box
  • Hollin has interest in weather-related spawns
  • Niantic was finally able to incorporate different spawns based on the time of day/night
  • when asked about Shiny Pokemon being included, he said “no comment”
  • regional Pokemon are a thing because Tatsuo Nomura really wanted players to feel the scope of the Pokemon world
  • Niantic is working with Apple to see if they can come up with something to count your steps while you’re exercising indoors
  • Hollin is pretty sure players have discovered all of the Easter Eggs in the game




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