As Pokémon celebrates its 20th anniversary, Niantic released what may be the most ambitious project the company has ever known: Pokémon GO.
For those that are still unaware, Pokémon GO is a free-to-play game for mobile phones that allows people to act as trainers and walk around in real life catching Pokémon.
While the game itself may have drawn criticism for technical errors and not being what people hoped for, there is no mistaking that the game has been a huge success for the franchise.
On the business side, it has been a huge commercial success. It was the most downloaded game in the history of the Apple App Store. Nintendo, who created the original Pokémon games, saw stocks skyrocket by about 50 percent.
Few are going to argue that Pokémon GO is a great game in and of itself, but that’s not the point. It has now become an entity that has transcended gaming. Pokémon GO only had one mission: to bring back people’s love of the Pokémon franchise. Most, if not all, have been exposed to Pokémon in one way or another, whether it is from watching the cartoons, playing the video games or being the owner of that one rare Charizard card.
The game has brought out the inner child of those that have played it. The point was not to create the perfect Pokémon game, but to bring this community of fans, that has now spanned decades, much closer together. It has turned people who have never played Pokémon before into fans.
There are also added benefits to players of the game: their health. The game requires walking around in real life trying to find Pokémon and items to use, simulating the adventure aspects of Pokémon games and cartoons. In the franchise, trainers travel all over the world on a quest to catch all the Pokémon, hence the popular “Gotta Catch ’em All” slogan. There is no legitimate way to get far in the game without walking and sometimes players are walking two, five, or maybe even 10 kilometers on a single Pokémon adventure, keeping physically active while still having a lot of fun.
It may not be as popular as it was on release earlier this summer, but it has not gone from the public consciousness. More updates are coming periodically and Niantic, the company that designed the game, have said that they may be looking into adding more Pokémon to catch beyond the first original 150 Pokémon, keeping the game fresh and everlasting.
This also opens the possibility for future titles to adopt this model. As technology continues to grow at an exponential rate, the potential is there for more virtual reality Pokémon titles. Within a few years, we might truly have the real life Pokémon experience that we saw when the game debuted in an incredible trailer in 2015.
If you’re looking for the same old Pokémon experience, there are new Pokémon games coming out this year. Does this game have technical issues? Sure, but no game is perfect. This mobile title made summer for many people that much better by stepping into the shoes of a Pokémon trainer. In the end, that’s the point of Pokémon: to travel the world, meet new friends and experience all the different types of Pokémon the world has to offer.
Senior journalism major
Printed in the 9/21/16 issue.