Pokemon Go creator plans to attract more fans – BBC News

  • By Andrew Rogers
  • BBC Newsbeat

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Pokemon Go developer Niantic hopes the new features will bring people back to the game

For decades, Pokemon fans have been on a mission to “catch ’em all.”

Crazes have followed these cute creatures since they first launched on Nintendo’s Game Boy in 1996 – with their surprise success sparking a global craze known as ‘Pokemon’.

And in 2016, when Pokmon Go fever seemed to take over the world, it felt like everyone was looking for virtual monsters again.

The popular mobile game used augmented reality (AR) to bring search from the couch to the streets, and its early days were marked by regular crashes due to high demand.

According to Niantic, the company behind it, millions of people still play daily, but the game has struggled to recapture that early success.

User numbers are down significantly from that early peak, and longtime fans are unhappy with the recent changes.

However, game creator John Haneke insists the game is “definitely going very strong” when BBC Newsbeat joins him for a Pokemon hunt in London’s Central Park.

Of course, you’d expect him to say that, but he has a track record of software success.

Even if you’ve never eaten Snorlax, eaten Pikachu, or collared Charizard in Pokemon Go, chances are you’ve used one of his other inventions, Google Maps.

Pokmon Go is based on Google Maps technology and Niantic’s first game, Ingress – a flag-style multiplayer game where teams battled for control of territories.

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John Hanke says he is optimistic about the future of games like Pokemon Go

John says his inspiration for Google Maps was to use new technology to help people find useful information, and he’s still excited about the ways new devices like smart glasses, headsets and connected watches can be used.

“Phones are good because it’s the technology of today,” he says. “But it’s still not perfect, because it’s kind of distracting.”

“I’m most excited about the ones that don’t cut you off from other people,” John says.

John says he’s particularly interested in mixed reality devices, such as Instagram’s new Meta Malik headset and Apple’s Vision Pro coming next year.

“Those are the kinds of devices we’re into,” he says.

“Because they are things that you can use when you’re walking and with your friends and they don’t get in the way.”

John predicts that “2024 will be a breakthrough year for AR, especially as it converges with artificial intelligence (AI).

He says that Niantic is looking to deploy this feature in Pokemon Go to deepen the interaction between its real and virtual elements.

The company hopes to launch an AI-based feature next year that will allow the creatures to “place themselves in the environment and respond to things in the environment in a realistic way”.

It paints a pretty picture of the future of augmented reality technology, but it doesn’t prove to be that simple.

This summer, Niantic cut its workforce by a quarter, laying off 230 employees and closing its Los Angeles office.

It also announced that many of its games based on popular franchises such as Harry Potter, Marvel and Transformers will either not run or be shut down early.

“It was very unfortunate that we had to do this,” says John.

“But it allowed us to get smaller and more focused. Ultimately that’s probably a healthy thing.”

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This game has been recently updated so that you can see your friends on the same page

While its other games have had mixed results, Niantic is hoping to increase the amount of time and money people spend in Pokemon Go and entice lapsed users with new features and game modes.

The latest game, called Party Play, focuses on what Pokmon Go has always done well – bringing people together.

Trainers, as they call their players, can team up with three friends and see them on the same screen as they go out together to complete missions.

This reflects the vibrant community scene that has built up around the game, with events still held regularly that bring fans out for walks together in their local areas.

Getting feelings

For some, it has even led to them falling in love and finding a new partner.

Enter Hilma, 22, and Albin, 26, who say their relationship is thanks to Pokmon Go. Originally from Sweden, they both moved to London to study fashion.

Albin says he decided to download the app again when he found out Hilma was a trainer, so he had an excuse to ask her out.

“Our first date was a Pokemon Go date,” says Hilma.

The couple says the game has also helped them make new friends and explore their new hometown.

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Hilma and Albin say Pokemon Go is the reason they are now a couple

In fact, they decided to do part of their tour in London, as this year it hosted a huge fan event called Go Fest.

“Of course you get a lot of people who don’t understand it. But I think as soon as we explain it, they do,” says Hilma.

“It’s so weird, so it’s so fashionable. Acting is the most fashionable thing you can do.”

Albin says the idea of ​​making Pokmon Go more realistic with wearable technology sounds interesting, but current headsets “need to be a little smoother than they are now.”

Albin and Hilma aren’t the first Pokémon Go couple that John has met on his travels around the world.

“Really early on there were people who were engaged, then married, and subsequently I met their kids,” John says.

“It’s heartwarming to see that this is something that brings people together, especially in a world where we need more things to bring us together.”

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