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Pokemon Go Started As An April Fool’s Joke

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You may not be aware that Nintendo and The Pokemon Company have launched an app spinoff of the Pokemon series, called Pokemon Go. Hype for the game seems to be nonexistent and this is probably the first article you have read referencing the app on the entire Internet.

Since you likely have no idea what it is, allow me to explain: it’s an augmented reality game that uses real-world maps (and the skeleton of a similar map-app game, Ingress) to superimpose happy hopping Pokemon all over your phone’s camera view. Locations around your neighborhood like dark alleys, cemeteries and the Church of Scientology are transformed into Poke Stops (where you can gather supplies) and Gyms (where you can challenge Gym Leaders for dominance). There’s currently no method of battling other trainers besides walking up and hitting them.

You might not know, though, that the whole thing started as an April Fool’s joke. Two years ago Google Maps scattered Pokemon all over their web service and challenged users to find them hiding all over Earth. John Hanke, CEO of Niantic Labs, watched the experiment intently and wondered if something similar could be done with augmented reality. At the time Niantic was owned by Google, but after it was spun off, they were free to make their own map-game apps like Ingress and, eventually, Pokemon Go.

Hanke asked Masashi Kawashima, director of Asia Pacific for Niantic, whether Google’s Pokemon hunt “could be done in the real world.” A few arrangements and a deal with The Pokemon Company later, and here we are, in a Pokemon world.