It’s an exciting time to be a Pokemon Go player! It’s been only about a week since the introduction of generation 3 Pokemon and a literal game-changing weather addition, but data miners at Silph Road have already noticed something new. While the recent holiday event announcement confirmed the sale of the new star piece item among other goods, 20 new water and ice Pokemon, increased ice type spawns, and free single-use incubators from December 22-25, we also received news of a huge AR update in league with what we’ve seen for the upcoming AR game Walking Dead: Our World. While data miners think it may work with Android’s ARCore, Niantic’s press release only talks about accessibility for Apple’s ARKit on devices running iOS 11.
Admittedly, this means that AR+ is a feature that only a fraction of the player base will be able to experience. The fact that using this mode also gives players additional experience points and stardust (the game’s rarer currency for leveling Pokemon) is disappointing for those left out, but it makes sense as the new catching method seems rather involved.
It’s an interesting time to be a Pokemon Go player. Niantic’s put out two events that greatly reduced the game’s grind and setting community goals, granting regional ‘mon back-to-back. But the company still seems susceptible to weird missteps in its progress, and the latest news only reinforces that reality. Not only is the company slowly releasing new Pokemon later this week, but it’s rolling out changes that ensure real-life weather affects the game.
While Niantic (wisely) didn’t mention whether fires, sandstorms, or lightning are included in the new mechanics, effects like sun, rain, and snow are, which still might seem like a bad idea if you live in a place that has seriously bad weather. Depending on the weather, you may see more Pokemon that fit in with the environment (and you’ll snag some bonus stardust) while you’ll also find that relevant move types increase in damage. In other words, Niantic is incentivizing you to play Pokemon Go in terrible climate conditions. Even fog is included, and while I’d love to see more mysterious Pokemon spawning in my fog-heaven-hometown, maybe enticing out-of-towners who aren’t used to driving in it at 3 a.m. with rewards isn’t the best idea Niantic’s ever had.
When we first heard rumors about a Harry Potter version of Pokemon Go, I said I could barely imagine what the game might be like before listing several other IPs that would translate better as AR games. It’s not that I don’t like the Harry Potter series (I do) or Niantic (someone’s got to push the envelope). My issue is that I can’t see how their respective styles could combine to create something great.
So I’ve gone back to some of my pre-POGO notes about Ingress and what would need to change before it went live and, well, Niantic clearly thinks differently than I do because this game is very much happening. I thought it might be useful to consider Niantic’s past and how it may affect its upcoming game Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. Let’s dig in.
Hot on the heels of its legendary bird raids, Pokemon Go will have Generation 2’s legendary dogs as the game’s newest raids starting August 31st. As the dogs roamed the 2-D landscape 1999, they’ll now roam the world’s gyms, with each dog being a region exclusive for about 30 days before moving to a new territory.
Electric dog Raikou will be in the western hemisphere, fire dog Entei will roam Europe and Africa, and “why is this still weaker than Vaporeon?” water pup Suicune will be doggy paddling around Asia. For those thinking about jumping back into the game, Reddit user RyanoftheDay, who often creates infographs for the game, has already put together an image to help people prepare for the pups. In addition, EX Raids (formerly called “Exclusive Raids”) will be distributed to the public soon for events starting September 6th.
Next Games, the company behind The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land, recently announced an AR game based on the Walking Dead IP.
What’s interesting is that unlike Pokemon Go, the Walking Dead’s AR seems to be a key feature of gameplay, not an add-on, and it’s being marketed as such. Players will need to follow AR clues to find survivors and physically move around to find and combat zombies which may surround them. While that does seem highly engaging, I know I’ll have to worry about non-gamers reacting to AR weirdness in meat space, sort of like in Pokemon GO raiding situations in high-traffic areas.
In addition, comparing the demographics of The Walking Dead TV series to Pokemon GO player demographics reveals quite the overlap in terms of gender and age. Both have nearly equal appeal between the genders and primarily seem to attract people in their 20s and 30s. This means Niantic might actually have competition from another AR game based on a strong IP. It’ll be interesting to see how the community responds once The Walking Dead: Our World arrives.
MOP reader Sally recently pointed us to a series of articles on virtual reality and augmented reality tech that when taken together make for an interesting discussion on two terms most laypeople seem to use interchangeably.
- In January following this year’s CES, Yahoo tech columnist David Pogue rolled his eyes at “gushing” over VR and argued that augmented reality was far more interesting.
- In April, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg gave a speech suggesting that the future of VR is bright but that the equipment was a hindrance to socializing — that augmented reality, with transparent glasses, is the future.
- Electronic Arts said basically the same exact thing just four days ago — that VR is still years away from mass-market consumers but that the company is focusing on AR in the shorter term.
- And finally AltspaceVR, a startup that was offering a social VR chat aimed at businesses, is closing up shop, having run out of funding. Its userbase was only 35,000 people monthly, and it’s not even the only VR company to close down this year.
I have to say that I see much more utility and promise in a Shadowrun-like tech future of augmented glasses than in cumbersome game devices, but am I wrong — and are the money men wrong? Is our future in virtual reality or augmented reality?
Pokemon GO recently ran a Water Festival to celebrate International Water Day on March 22, a holiday I hadn’t known existed in either America or Japan (though Niantic’s event was a bit early perhaps a better Thailand’s Water Festival/New Year, Songkran). As you’d expect, the event featured more water Pokemon, but it also finally introduced rare shiny color variants of Pokemon… or at least just Magikarp and Gyrados. Sadly, a tracker display issue and its supposed fix made it difficult for some players to catch Pokemon in general. Combined with the low odds of finding a shiny, like in the main series, fans had been worried that the end of the event meant the end of shinies. Not so.
I, like many others who were children throughout the ‘90s and early 2000s, went through a period in my young life where the only thing I wanted in life was to be a Pokemon master. I wanted to be the very best like no one ever was, the whole nine yards. My mom swears that when I was a wee lad of five or so, the top item on my Christmas list (which was of course intricately arranged in order of priority, because even five-year-old me was neurotic) was the rather large order of asking Santa to send me real, live Pokemon, which I was sure had to exist somewhere in the world. If we, the human race, possessed the technology to clone sheep, then surely Santa could just inject some lightning into a mouse and create a Pikachu. Five-year-old me’s logic was airtight.
Well, a couple of decades later, we still don’t have the technology to genetically engineer honest-to-god Pokemon so that eleven-year-old children everywhere can flee their homes and wander the world with their trusty pets/instruments of borderline godlike power at their sides. I know, I’m disappointed, too. But what we do have is Pokemon Go, the augmented-reality mobile title from Niantic that is letting everyone who ever hoped to travel across the land (searching far and wide) in hopes of becoming the world’s greatest Pokemon master do exactly that through the magic of their mobile phones.
Gotta catch them all? If you ever felt like the handheld worlds in the Pokémon games were ultimately too small, then get ready for Pokémon Go, the augmented reality title that uses the entire world as its playscape.
Pokémon Go uses iOS and Android apps to interact with surroundings, challenging players to visit real world locations to capture critters and battle with others. The Pokémon people said that they’ll be doing an initial playtest of the game in Japan with a global rollout in later 2016.
Curious how this game might function? Visitors to SXSW this month were treated to a short preview of a player capturing Ivysaur with the game — and naturally, someone recorded that preview for your edification. Check it out after the break!