Pokémon fever is sweeping the globe again, and it's all thanks to a free downloadable app game called Pokémon Go. You've probably heard of the craze – maybe you're scouring your neighborhood in search of Pokémon right now, or, if you're like me, you've just spent all your stardust leveling your first common Raticate and are now languishing in regret. But! Have you ever wondered how the idea for Pokémon Go started, or what major gameplay feature is missing from Pokémon Go? Read on to find out some amazing facts all about Pokémon Go.
Fun Pokémon Go Facts
1. The idea for Pokémon Go started as an April Fool's joke.
Sometime in 2014, legendary game designer Satoru Iwata and Tsunekazu Ishihara of Nintendo and the Pokémon Company thought it would be funny to populate the world with GPS coordinates indicating wild Pokémon sightings and habitats. So they reached out to Google, and by April 2014, Google Maps featured a version of its popular satellite map app that just happened to be dotted with pins pointing to sightings of wild Arkanines, Squirtles, Pikachus and other iconic Pokémon species.
Either the idea was so well-received, or merely such a popular concept among the staff that Pokémon Go went into serious development a short time later. Tatsuo Nomura of Google Maps, who had helped in the collaboration for the April Fool's joke, became a senior project manager at Niantic, the studio responsible for producing and developing Pokémon Go. And in 2015, Ishihara dedicated his speech at the game's announcement to Iwata, who had passed away two months prior due to complications resulting from an illness. The game officially launched worldwide a little over a year later, in July 2016.
2. Pokémon Go is based on bug-catching.
Apparently, the catch 'em, train 'em, battle 'em style of gameplay is so popular among children in Japan that it translates into a bug-catching hobby as well. Stores and vending machines will sell keychains with small translucent plastic balls (with ventilation cut-outs) for kids to bring their insect finds to school to "battle" them with bugs brought in by other kids. It's a great way for budding entomologists to spend some free time engaged with the vibrant insect ecology of Japan, and Pokémon Go seems like a natural evolution of this pastime.
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3. You can play Pokémon Go without a smartphone or tablet...
...sort of, and only if you're willing to shell out some cash for the Pokémon Go Plus, a low-energy Bluetooth device that's meant to offer a hands-free experience for playing Pokémon Go. Designed to look like a combination of a Google Maps pin and the iconic red and white Pokéball from the series, the Pokémon Go Plus is meant to offer a more "heads-up" experience than most other augmented reality games. Essentially a wristwatch/pager that's supposed to be worn while you're exploring the world, the device will buzz or vibrate whenever it detects a nearby Pokémon. You can even press a button on the device to capture Pokémon without pausing to take out your phone; however, you won't be able to tell what you've caught until the device is wired or synced up to a smartphone or tablet. Other features of the device include the ability to collect Poké Balls, Berries, Poké Eggs and other items at PokéStop locations, all without having to rely on your smartphone or tablet.
4. Pokémon Go involves very different gameplay than the original Pokémon games.
In previous Pokémon games, you're navigating a fantastical world created by the game developers. In Pokémon Go, you're visiting real-world locations to capture your Pokémon. But the differences don't end there: in all earlier Pokémon games, the goal was not only to discover and catch all the Pokémon you can but also to be the best Pokémon trainer you can be. Not only are you capturing and taming Pokémon from the wild, you're also traveling side-by-side with your Pokémon, feeding it nutritious snacks, equipping it with items and special abilities, all for the ultimate goal of "training" your Pokémon to square off with other Pokémon trainers (and sometimes villains) to level up your Pokémon's fighting ability. Ultimately, your goal was to bring your Pokémon to battle regional "gym leaders" and win badges signifying your trainer's experience and veterancy among Pokémon aficionados. Much of these elements of gameplay have been removed in Pokémon Go; you're no longer training your Pokémon, and no actual Pokémon-vs-Pokémon battles take place. Instead, the app is focused on exploration, finding, capturing and evolving Pokémon.
5. Only 151 Pokémon species are able to be captured in Pokémon Go.
Out of over 720 Pokémon species in the series, only 151 classic species from the original series run are able to be caught at this time. There's room in that Pokédex to grow—and a clear way for the free-to-play game to cash in on future paid content updates or expansion packs.
6. The one HUGE feature Pokémon Go is missing: no actual multiplayer mode.
While multiplayer capability was initially advertised in the first few trailers for Pokémon Go, the release version of the mobile app actually has no multiplayer mode – zero, zilch, nada. Pokémon Go is a social app, but while you're very likely to bump (probably literally) into other Pokémon enthusiasts when roaming your neighborhood in search of Pokémon, Pokémon Go supports no actual direct player-to-player interactions. You can't battle players, nor can you trade Pokémon or items with other players—two of the biggest draws of previous Pokémon games. So big, in fact, that there have been massive Pokémon battling tournaments and championships with cash prizes. All that's missing in Pokémon Go, but again, there's room for expansion, and to be fair, the pre-release trailers do seem to hint that multiplayer will be a functionality to be added eventually, sometime after launch.