Pokémon Go is causing quite a stir – the Nintendo-owned franchise has made a storming comeback with its new augmented reality app for iPhone and Android.
The game works by using your phone’s GPS and camera – you then walk around in the real world, searching for the original pocket monsters through your smartphone screen.
Its monster success has seen it hit headlines across the world, but with it has come controversy centred on safety and privacy fears. A girl playing the game in Wyoming has told of how it led her to finding a dead body, while four people have been arrested for using the game to lure players to a remote location, before robbing them at gunpoint.
Today Pokémon Go was just released in the UK – so what’s it all about?
What is Pokémon Go?
Firstly, Nintendo has really hit a sweet-spot with its audience. The game is appealing not only to the children it’s aimed at, but also to those whose nostalgia dates back to the Game Boy. So many people are playing it that the servers have been crashing, which is why the global roll-out was delayed.
The game feels like the original Game Boy game given a 2016 technological makeover. Augmented reality, in this case, is simply seeing computer-generated graphics placed into the ‘real world’ via your smartphone’s camera (we’re a long way off from holograms here).
You’re encouraged to head outdoors, explore real-life locations and collaborate with others to achieve a common goal. Locations local to you will have already been turned into key assets in the game. For example, Great Portland Street tube station near Which? HQ doubles as a ‘Pokéstop’ – a place where you can replenish supplies in the game.
Your location and Pokémon Go
So how has Pokémon Go been able to take advantage of real-world locations in this way? That would be down to something of a lesser-known predecessor: Niantic’s (the same studio as Pokémon Go) augmented-reality game ‘Ingress’.
Prior to Pokémon Go, Ingress was probably the most successful augmented reality game to date. Players pick one of two teams supposedly engaged in a secret worldwide battle to control and link ‘portals’ on the map. These portals are generally real-world street art, landmarks and other notable spots that players can interact with by visiting these locations and taking various actions in the app.
The locations and photographs that were identified and submitted for inclusion in Ingress now make up much of the universe of Pokémon Go, and it set the standard for gameplay based on geo-location.
Is augmented reality safe?
Today’s UK release of Pokémon Go will likely give parents a lot to think about. The game is not only dealing with location-based privacy concerns, but also very real dangers in potentially venturing into places you otherwise might not go.
On the other hand, the game’s innovative nature has been praised for getting kids out of the house and talking to each other away from chat apps and social media. In fact, even some adults have praised that they’ve met people in the real-world thanks to the game. And surely that can only be a good thing?
Do you think augmented reality is the next big thing? Will you download Pokémon Go, or are you concerned about this latest trend?