So, Pokémon GO was announced. Haven’t seen the trailer yet? Well, go watch it. I linked it just here for you. Cool, wasn’t it? Got a lot of questions, now, don’t you?
For those of you who haven’t seen the trailer, Pokémon GO is essentially the Pokémon Google maps April fool’s prank from last year: a location detection-driven game which may or not be AR (thanks to the confusion of the last 3 seconds of the trailer versus the rest of it), where you find Pokémon near to you using location services on your smart phone in order to catch the Pokémon. It seems that the game will be using many of the same mechanics as the main series, namely Pokémon battles and catching wild ‘mon with Poke balls. You can also buy a bracelet called the “Pokémon GO Plus”, which vibrates to let you know when an event, like a wild Pokémon, is nearby.
The game’s being developed by Niantic, known for their AR location-based game Ingress, inassociation with Nintendo and the Pokémon Company. Not many details about the game have been released besides the trailer. We don’t know to what extent the gameplay of the main series is represented, the extent of Pokémon being confined to their habitats (are all Pokémon available in, say, a single city or county area?), and how often are legendary Pokémon events (hinted in the trailer as a girl battles Mewtwo in times square while a clock counts down the time of the special event). If the game is AR and uses a graphical style similar to much of the trailer, will there be support for AR glasses like Google Glass? For the record, I don’t care how stupid I’d look if that were the case.
There are also a few questions to be raised about potentially problematic aspects of the game. This setup is prime real estate for the pay-to-win model; if you need to buy Pokéballs, do you pay real money, or do you have to buy in-game currency? In the main series, you earn cash through beating other trainers, whereas the other trainers in this game are real people, so does the winner get in-game cash as a prize gift, or are the funds subtracted from the loser? Even if this game is the AR dream that we’re all hoping for, pay-to-win mechanics could be a real deal breaker.
Pokémon GO is currently scheduled for release in 2016. I’ll file this one under “Intriguing” for now.