Ever since Nintendo announced that it would be getting into mobile games, we've all wondered just what that might look like; would it mean traditional, Nintendo-quality games on a smartphone, or just quick free-to-play diversions starring Mario and Luigi? We still don't know exactly what to expect from the first game between Nintendo and its mobile partner DeNA, but after the surprise announcement of Pokémon Go we know at least two things: Nintendo is taking mobile seriously, and it's open to some pretty wild ideas.
Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game made in collaboration between Nintendo, The Pokémon Company, and Niantic Labs, the studio behind Google's AR game Ingress. In Go, players can travel to real-world locations to catch, train, and battle Pokémon — sort of like that Google April Fools' Day joke from last year, only real. Niantic will be making the game, with a lot of input from Nintendo and The Pokémon Company; Junichi Masuda, director of the Pokémon games, will be contributing to the project. "He is hard at work ensuring that the fun of Pokémon makes its way into this new project," the Pokémon Company said in a statement, "and is also looking to come up with new kinds of gameplay while thinking of ways to connect this project with the main series of Pokémon video games."
But even if Nintendo isn't making the game itself, it's still heavily involved in the project. Typically The Pokémon Company isn't afraid to do its own thing, without Nintendo. It has already released several Pokémon games on mobile, including a digital version of the trading card game and, more recently, a port of the free-to-play 3DS puzzle game Pokémon Shuffle.
Nintendo had little to do with those releases, but that's not the case with Pokémon Go. The company is developing a Bluetooth-enabled accessory for the game, called the Pokémon Go Plus, which lights up and vibrates when you approach virtual Pokémon in the real world, and game design luminary Shigeru Miyamoto was even on stage in Tokyo to announce the new game. Meanwhile, late Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata was also involved in the game's creation, which started around two years ago.
Pokémon Go is unexpected and ambitious
Pokémon Go isn't one of the five games Nintendo is making in collaboration with DeNA — the first of which is due to launch this year — which makes this news even more exciting. Nintendo's foray into mobile isn't as simple as just licensing its characters for smartphone games; instead, the company is working with multiple partners to create different kinds of experiences as part of its new mobile venture. Pokémon Go is unexpected and ambitious in the same way the best Nintendo games often are. It's something few expected, yet it makes perfect sense, and will likely be incredibly popular.
Pokémon Go is a serious effort, and even if Nintendo isn't the main force behind its development, it clearly has a big part to play in the overall quality of the experience. This bodes well for the upcoming games made in partnership with DeNA. Iwata had previously said that Nintendo had a "serious commitment to the smart device business," and if Pokémon Go is anything to go by, that means we're in for some exciting new games.