Pokémon Go isn't the first Pokémon title to come out on mobile devices, but it's by far the most unusual — unusual enough that The Pokémon Company decided to hold a rare press conference in Tokyo today to explain the concept. The game is developed by Niantic, the former Google internal startup behind GPS-powered AR game Ingress, and the idea is for players to collect and battle Pokémon by exploring the real world.
So far, so Ingress, but the weirdest aspect of the whole affair is Pokémon Go Plus. It's basically a Nintendo-built Bluetooth smartwatch-a-like that gives you a presence in the Pokémon Go world without having to actively use your phone. So, if a virtual Pikachu is hanging out in your local train station, your watch will buzz and flash to notify you that there's a Pokémon ready to be captured on your commute. Pokémon Go Plus isn't essential to playing Pokémon Go; it's just meant to make the experience smoother.
Much of Pokémon Go remains under wraps, but I was at least able to see the Pokémon Go Plus wearable for myself. As you'd expect, we're not exactly dealing with an Apple Watch level of fit and finish here. But the Pokémon Go concept is intriguing enough alone, and feels like the perfect fit for Ingress — a cool project that never really resonated with a wide audience. If anything can get people hooked on AR gaming, Pokémon can.
- Pokémon Go Plus isn't just a watch — it can be clipped onto a shirt or jacket pocket. Here it's being modeled by Game Freak's Junichi Masuda, The Pokémon Company's Tsunekazu Ishihara, Niantic's John Hanke, and Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto.
- This is about as much as we've seen of the game so far — a simple screenshot of Pikachu in a field.
- The watches glow and vibrate when you walk somewhere in the real world that corresponds with somewhere in Pokémon Go's virtual world.
- Pokémon Go Plus was developed because of Nintendo's concerns over people spending too much time looking at their phones.
- No price has been set yet for the Pokémon Go Plus watch, but the game will be "free-to-start" with in-app purchases.