How Did Pokémon Go Came To Be? Thank Niantic’s Previous Game Ingress

Who would have thought that the Pokemon Company’s CEO (and his wife) are fans of Ingress?

In a Game Informer interview with Niantic co-founder John Hanke, he elaborated on how the joint venture with Nintendo’s long-running IP came to be.

Niantic were part of Google when the collaboration between them and Nintendo for an April Fools prank in 2014. In case you might forgotten, this was the prank where you can find and catch pokémons via Google Maps. Determined pokemon trainers that did caught them all even had a card of certification sent to them for their efforts.

Niantic launched Ingress in 2012, an augmented reality mobile game that involves players go to real-life places and secure them for their team of choice. Real-life locations were picked by the players, after following certain guidelines placed beforehand. It currently still has an active player base, but it is not surprising our side of the world did not catch the hype train for it.

After the April Fools prank, the team at Niantic approached The Pokemon Company’s CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara to pitch the idea of a Pokémon-themed game based on what they did with Ingress, only to find out he and his wife are active players of the game.

“So we actually surfaced the idea with The Pokémon Company, there was interest, they were actually playing Ingress, and Mr. Ishihara, the CEO of the Pokémon company – I met him maybe a month later, and he was like a level 11 Ingress player, so he compulsively played. And his wife was a – and I guess they are still playing – his wife was a high-level Ingress agent as well.

“So, they’ve been playing together, then a lot of people in The Pokémon Company were Ingress players, so when we pitched this idea of a Pokémon-like game built on the concept that we’d built with Ingress it was very well-received. I mean, we both brought ideas, being the very obvious thing. And yeah, we started the project, and here we are.” -John Hanke

Based on the same interview, Niantic did receive feedback from Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto and Game Freak’s Junichi Masuda, producer of the upcoming Pokemon Sun & Moon. Though it is suggested that their input may not be as much as one would expect. Pokémon Go is not a project directly under Nintendo’s recent ventures for mobile gaming with DeNA, which will be releasing a mobile version of Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing soon.

With the right idea (Ingress but with pokemons), a proven pitch (the success of Ingress, or how the owners of the Pokemon IP are Ingress fan) and an opportunity for both to merge, Pokémon Go was born. While some sites like to show the narrative as a 20-year long journey, which is not wrong, this point of the story is also worth highlighting.

Since Pokémon Go is not yet out for Malaysia, has anyone gave Ingress a go instead?

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