After Pokémon Go's release last July, it went on to become a global phenomenon. Despite its initial limited availability, the game's popularity spread like wildfire. Pokémon Go quickly became the topic of conversation for gamers, tech blogs, and talk-show hosts, before catching on with even casual gamers and non-gamers. The game (available on iOS and Android devices) allows players to hunt, capture, train, and battle Pokémon through augmented reality (a technological interface where looking through the screen makes the creature appear as though it's in the player's real-life environment).
As Pokémon Go's initial buzz wore off, scores of players walked away from the game. However, after peaking with approximately 500,000,000, downloads, there are still plenty of fans invested in Pokémon Go's addictive gameplay. Niantic, the team behind Pokémon Go, have joined up with Sprint to provide some treats for fans who stuck with them while also luring in lapsed players.
While Niantic's statement lacks specific details, they have confirmed that they will be releasing new Pokémon into Pokémon Go. Niantic stated that they will reveal more information on their social media channels on December 12. This statement seems to confirm information uncovered last month when data miners discovered references to Pokémon 152 through 251 in the Pokédex.
Niantic also announced that they will be partnering with Sprint to bring over 10,000 Pokéstops and gyms to various Sprint locations in the United States. Here's Niantic's official statement:
In addition, we are thrilled to announce that we are working with Sprint to create a special Pokémon GO experience at over 10,500 Sprint locations around the United States. As part of this collaboration, Sprint, Boost Mobile and Sprint at Radioshack stores will become PokéStops and Gyms, giving you even more places to stock up on Poké Balls and Razz Berries and to battle your friends. Sprint locations will also feature in-store charging stations to keep your Pokémon GO sessions going even longer. Sprint also brings a great network and an unlimited data plan to support your search for Pokémon no matter where they are hiding.
Additionally, Pokémon GO will also receive some updates, going from version 0.49.1 for Android and 1.19.1 for iOS devices. Here is a list of the updates straight from Pokémon GO's official site:
- Trainers will be able to transfer multiple Pokémon at a time to Professor Willow. To use this function, press and hold on a Pokémon.
- Pokémon type icons have been added to the Gym battle approach and Gym battle screen.
- The total Candy count for your Buddy Pokémon has been added to the buddy information screen.
- The total kilometers a buddy has walked has been added to the information screen of each Pokémon that has ever been your buddy.
- Minor text fixes.
Even amidst the height of last summer's Pokémon fever, the game's mainstream allure was its technical innovation. Once the novelty wore off, constant glitches and shallow gameplay mechanics put a major dent in the game's longevity. Well-executed updates can smooth out games rough edges by removing glitches, stopping crashes, and lessening battery drain. These updates can also improve the game by balancing uneven gameplay mechanics and adding new wrinkles (they can also lead to unforeseen technical issues and game-breaking imbalances).
Augmented reality is destined to hit the mass-market, and right now, Pokémon Go is offering the public its first mainstream experience. It's amusing to see a beloved video game series find mainstream success where Google, an industry titan, has yet to succeed (see Google Glass). Cross-promoting Pokémon Go with popular brands is a great way to attract lapsed players back to the game while adding fresh new options for diehard players.
Pokémon Go has been a boon for augmented reality, but it's only a first step (a baby one at that). Now that the public has a taste for the technology, it's only a matter of time before a better, more advanced app comes along and plays Facebook to Pokémon Go's Myspace. In order to stay on top, Pokémon Go must keep evolving and become more than a novelty game and with a middling Metacritic score.