The Pokémon Company has announced its second official smartphone game, called Pokémon GO, and if the brand new trailer is anything to go by, it looks like a game-changer. Using a Pokéball-shaped wearable, players will be able to capture, battle, and trade Pokémon out in the real world, kind of like a pocket monster-themed version of the mysterious augmented reality spy game, Ingress. If similarities between the two games seem abundant (e.g. using your phone to find digital objectives, interacting with nearby players through your phone), that's because Ingress creators Niantic Labs are the designers bringing Pikachu and company out of the pocket and into the street.
If you're a Pokéfreak like me, you've been waiting for Pokémon to come out for the iPhone since the invention of apps. While there are certainly workarounds for Android and jailbroken iPhones (plus the puzzling Pokémon Shuffle), a bona fide Pokémon game for the phone that I actually want to play has failed to appear, it seems, until now. “Our challenge was to develop a great game for smart phone devices that expressed the core values of Pokémon,” said Tsunekazu Ishihara, president and CEO of The Pokémon Company, at the announcement event. “Pokémon GO is the answer to that challenge.”
There isn't a whole lot of information about how the game will actually work yet, except that the Pokémon GO Plus wearable will alert you to the presence of other Pokémon, and let you catch them with the click of a button. Suffice to say, we probably won't be physically blocked by any bridge Snorlaxes as in the trailer below, but we can look to other AR projects like Scorpion Dagger's GIF book, Blastosphere, REIFY, and Ingress itself to make guesses about gameplay. Add in the promises of Hololens and Magic Leap, and we might be on the verge of a real Pokéverse. As John Hanke, founder and CEO of Niantic puts it, “Our partnership with The Pokémon Company and Nintendo is an exciting step forward in real-world gaming and using technology to help players discover the world and people around them.”
Pokémon Go will be a free download on both iOS and Android, with in-app purchases available afterward. You can watch the full press conference on YouTube. Here are some existing augmented reality projects to kill time with until Pokémon Go's 2016 launch: