Niantic, the former Google unit behind the popular augmented reality gameIngress, has teamed up with The Pokemon Company and Nintendo to bring the iconic Pokemon title to mobile platforms.
"We're excited that Pokemon fans and gamers can now start exploring their very own neighborhoods and cities to capture Pokemon using the Pokemon Goapp," said Niantic founder John Hanke.
The release follows several weeks of field testing in the U.S., Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Among features added to the game are the ability to take photos of various Pokemon encounters and sharing them with others.
The app is free to download, but users can make in-game purchases from 99 US cents to $99.99. The app is optimized for smartphone use but not tablet use.
After Niantic Labs' spinnoff from Google in 2015, the investment partners, which include The Pokemon Company, Nintendo and Google, invested $30 million in bid to make a serious run at creating an entirely new gaming experience on a mobile platform. The effort would rely on the company's strengths in geolocation technology, storytelling and game design.
"With all of the recent focus on VR, where there are still too many different platforms and too few users or good games, we kind of forgot about AR, which works better than VR with existing mobile platforms," noted Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.
"Pokemon Go, ironically, represents the kind of game that HP showcased over a decade ago as being ideal, because it blends the real world with gameplay, turning the environment into a gaming arena," he told TechNewsWorld.
Pokemon, originally launched in 1996 in Japan, has grown into one of the world's biggest platforms for children, leading to animated television shows, video games, trading cards, movies and live events.
"Pokemon is a global franchise with more impact on kids than almost any other franchise in history," said Ted Pollack, senior gaming analyst at Jon Peddie Research.
"Putting the franchise on mobile using AR totally makes sense, as it broadens the scope of people exposed to the franchise and embraces AR, which is a big upcoming technology," he told TechNewsWorld.
"So far, AR and location based mobile games have generally served a niche -- albeit dedicated audience," said Jack Kent, director of mobile at IHS.
"These titles have not challenged those at the very top of the app store revenue charts, but they have built a certain following," he told TechNewsWorld.
A high-profile gaming title like Pokemon and a brand leader like Nintendo can help push AR games more into the mainstream, Kent said, but he also noted that these type of experiences are much more involved than the more popular, casual gaming titles.
The potential market for AR gaming is vast, observed Jon Peddie's Pollack, but the success of the category depends on the willingness of fans to commit the additional time and stamina required to enjoy a true augmented experience.
"I think there are at least a few hundred million gamers that would use AR on their mobile devices. The question is for how long?" he wondered.
"Using AR on a mobile device requires the user to hold it up which can be fatiguing," added Pollack, "so the best game designs for AR on mobile will minimize the amount of time the device needs to be held up."
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