New Zealand and Australia were the first to get the game on Wednesday last week, with the US receiving it a day later. The game has rocketed to the #1 spot on Apple and Google stores.
NZ Game Developers Association chairman Stephen Knightly says it’s a milestone for the gaming industry because outdoor geo-location gaming has been talked about for a while but there have been barriers to entry.
“You’re expecting someone to get off their couch and get out and about and play a game outdoors, whereas games have often the convenience of playing with your hands while you’re commuting or killing time,” he says.
“What it really took was a brand with a lot of love for it, like Pokemon, which has been around for decades so people grew up with it, to get people out and about playing games for the first time.”
The brilliance of the game is that it doesn’t require anything more than a standard smart phone, compared to costly virtual reality (VR) headsets, he says.
However, it’s not a world-first.
The company that developed the game for Nintendo, mobile game studio Niantic, created a very similar game called Ingress, which many say is more sophisticated than Pokemon Go.
More locally, Lightning Lab-backed Auckland start-up Geo AR Games has created augmented reality games, such as “Sharks in the Park.” The game has kids restricted to a park where they must chase schools of fish while evading sharks.
Geo AR Games has also been contracted by Auckland, Wellington, Porirua and Lower Hutt councils to create another AR game called Magical Park.
Mr Knightly says Pokemon Go is less sophisticated than other Pokemon games, making it almost “Pokemon lite.”
“It’s just the fact that Pokemon is such a well-known and well-loved game. People have been playing Pokemon games for years imagining, ‘if only I could do this outside and in my local park,’” he says.