Nintendo Gives Pokémon Augmented Reality

Nintendo is hoping you'll want to catch 'em all in real life with its new Pokémon mobile videogame. Is this a great way to get our kids out of the house, or another way to keep them addicted to videogames?

David Wagner, Executive Editor, Community & IT Life

September 11, 2015

4 Min Read
<p align="left">The optional Bluetooth devices that could help you play the game without being glued to your phone, with and without strap.</p>

10 Mobile Games To Ease Your Commute

10 Mobile Games To Ease Your Commute

10 Mobile Games To Ease Your Commute (Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Nintendo is finally releasing its first mobile game in 2016 and it should be a pretty big release. The company is breaking out the big intellectual property guns by starting with Pokémon. The game, called Pokémon Go, will put Pokémon into "real life" by allowing you to use your phone or a special Bluetooth enabled pin to track down, fight, capture, and collect Pokémon on your phone.

The concept is similar to geocaching or to mobile games like Ingress. That shouldn't be a surprise, because Nintendo is developing the game in partnership with Niantic, the developer of Ingress.

For those unfamiliar with these games, they are essentially massive multi-player games that use location functions on your phone to map a virtual reality onto actual reality. Players go to real places (Times Square, for example) and fight for control over that space. In other versions of similar game players get rewards or collect items. Think of it like FourSquare, except with fighting.

Details are still pending, but it seems likely that players will go to a real-life location and then either collect a new Pokémon or fight a battle and collect a reward. People at the same location can join the battle and help each other. Here is a (very dramatic) video of how Nintendo envisions it.

Granted, it is unlikely you'll see thousands of people dropping everything they are doing in Times Square to fight MewTwo -- and frankly, I'd be a little worried if they did.

But assuming Nintendo populates enough of the world with enough virtual Pokémon, this could be a great way for kids and families to get out of the house together. This game that requires standing, moving, and exploring the real world, rather than sitting at a table with collectible cards or staying in front of a computer,

It helps to do it with friends in a social environment. Imagine real kids walking to actual places together and playing a game. After they win, maybe they'd take a second and breathe some fresh air and look around -- you know, like old folks did as kids back in the Stone Age. Except old folks like us didn't need a virtual reward to head to the park.

On the other hand, the game suffers from a potential and very real weakness. If I want to play Pokémon, I can do that without taking a walk first. I don't have to walk from virtual place to virtual place to take a second turn.

The problem with games like these is that they defy what Sid Meier once called the most important aspect of a good videogame: The "just one more turn" phenomenon. The most addictive mobile games have always excelled at this. Let me try that level on Angry Birds one more time. I know I can do it. Let me crush one more piece of candy. My clan needs me! Whatever the excuse, there was a reason to stay.

[ Here are six mobile games we thought Nintendo would start with. Read Nintendo Mobile Games: 6 To Start With. ]

Unless Nintendo builds in a lot, and I mean a lot, of ways to take more turns, the game becomes something you only whip out when you happen to be in the general area of a game site, and then it becomes forgotten. Think about it. You've come to Times Square for a reason, and I hope it wasn't to battle Mewtwo. Even our selfie-obsessed, Internet-addicted, social-media dependent world looks up from its phones in Time Square to look at the plethora of other, bigger screens all around.

Nintendo's promotional video shows plenty of families in parks and kids playing in suburban neighborhoods, so clearly the company intends for this to be a widespread videogame. Presumably, it will generate events based on your movement. But if it gets the ratio wrong it will kill the fun.

Still, I'm looking forward to going out and "catching them all" with my kids. At least until they complain that their feet hurt and they ask me a hundred times, "Are we there yet?"

What do you think? Is this a great way to get kids out of the house, or another way to keep them addicted to videogames?

About the Author(s)

David Wagner

Executive Editor, Community & IT Life

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, leadership, and innovation. He has also been a freelance writer for many top consulting firms and academics in the business and technology sectors. Born in Silver Spring, Md., he grew up doodling on the back of used punch cards from the data center his father ran for over 25 years. In his spare time, he loses golf balls (and occasionally puts one in a hole), posts too often on Facebook, and teaches his two kids to take the zombie apocalypse just a little too seriously. 

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