At the Apple event today, Niantic CEO John Hanke announced that Pokémon Go, the mobile sensational game which was released for Android and iOS devices a few months ago will soon be available on the Apple Watch. So soon, you’ll be able to catch, train, and hatch (from eggs) Pokémon while checking the time.
He mentioned that the game has been downloaded over 500 million times since its launch this summer, and people have walked over 4.6 billion kilometers while playing the game.
Dubbed Pokémon Go Plus, the watch-specific version of the game will launch exclusively on Apple Watches “later this month.”
Pokémon Go Plus won’t allow players to check a live map and throw Pokéballs; instead, it will alert walking players that certain Pokémon characters are nearby, at which point players can choose to turn their phones on and load the default app to try to catch the creature in question.
The presentation didn’t confirm whether or not players will be able to disable those alerts for lower-level creatures, so there’s no telling whether players’ wrists will buzz endlessly with alerts about piddly Pidgeys.
In good news, the watch interface will let players interact with Pokéstops and grab their free items and XP. Its interface will also quickly show players how much XP they need before leveling up.
Ultimately, this looks like a pretty killer implementation of the game’s best feature: rewarding fans with experience and items just for walking around—without requiring them to stare at their screens while strolling around with Pokémon on their minds. (Once a Ditto appears, of course, we won’t blame anybody for pulling their iPhone out.)
The Apple Watch app is scheduled for release this year.
Wait! What is Pokémon Go?
In case you are wondering or haven’t been bothered to care just yet, Pokémon Go is a free to play GPS enabled mobile game. Players have to find, capture, and train virtual Pokémon which is found, not in the game, but in the real world – hence the augmented reality (AR) aspect.
Developed by a spinoff Google startup Niantic, the Nintendo-owned franchise, which exploded in popularity in the late 1990s, is again taking America by storm — this time through Pokémon Go, the new augmented reality (AR) game. It’s popularity is such that it’s on the verge of overtaking Twitter in terms of daily active users on Android.
Players have to literally walk or run to the places where the Pokémon are and through an AR interface, they can use their phones as the lens to find the Pokémon. There’s also an option to use a wearable called a Pokémon Go Pus which gives off a vibrating alert when there’s Pokémon activity in the area.
Pokémon is a Nintendo franchise that launched in the 1990s. In its world, “trainers” travel the world to catch varied monsters called Pokémon — rats, dragons, swordlike creatures, and more — and use these critters to fight each other. The trainer’s goal is to catch “catch ’em all,” as the franchise’s slogan suggests, and become a Pokémon master by defeating prestigious trainers known as gym leaders and Elite Four.
Pokémon Go is the latest iteration of this franchise. But unlike previous games, it’s not for Nintendo’s handheld consoles; it’s a free download for Android and iOS devices. It also doesn’t play at all like previous Pokémon games: Although the goal is still to catch ’em all, Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game — it mixes real-world elements with the game. [pb-app-box pname=’com.nianticlabs.pokemongo’ name=’Pokémon GO’ theme=’discover’ lang=’en’]
Little monsters making a big impression
Since it’s launch Pokémon Go has topped the download charts for both iOS and Android (it has over 2 million downloads on iOS), dominating in the markets where it has been officially introduced (USA, Australia, New Zealand).
It has also reportedly surpassed daily active user percentage numbers for apps like Tinder and generated over $1,6 million in in-app purchases (that’s its primary revenue stream).
It’s biggest number yet – Pokémon Go boosted the share price of Nintendo, the gaming giant that is a partner in the Pokémon Company which owns the Pokémon franchise, by $9 billion.
Not just a fad but the mark of a new era
Like every other new app/tech sensation, it’s quite possible that this could be another fad. The millions of users it’s gathering could just give up on it after a while. Something on mobile no matter how captivating has a lot to fight just to get attention.
However, the massive adoption of AR and users’ response is the most notable thing here.
An introduction of a new content delivery paradigm that requires just a mobile device which everyone will have in the digital era could be a gateway to other ideas for gaming, entertainment and problem solving.
All eyes are already on products like Microsoft’s HoloLens which integrates VR and AR on a Windows platform that could be used for productivity and learning environments.
It’s also exciting because it’s the first big augmented reality game. Although others (like Ingress is Life Crime) tried before, none reached the heights of Pokémon Go. But with Pokémon Go’s success, it’s something you can expect more of in the future.
While we expect Nintendo NX to launch in March 2017 globally, the massive interest shown in AR by Pokémon Go will likely justify the greater investment that could have an impact on a faster roll-out to a global market.