Pokemon Go, an augmented reality game where players can catch and battle Pokemon in real world settings, will release for iOS and Android smartphones in 2016, Nintendo, The Pokemon Company and Niantic Labs announced in a collaboration on Thursday.
The Pokemon Company revealed the game at a special event in Tokyo, Japan. Pokemon Go is in development from Niantic, Inc., a former startup inside Google that announced its independence in August. The company is known for its augmented reality, massively multiplayer sci-fi smartphone title Ingress, which inspired the latest Pokemon’s reality-based design.
Tsunekazu Ishihara, president of The Pokemon Company, said Ingress shares a common philosophy with the series and believes by combining them a new Pokemon experience can be made.
Pokemon Go will be a free-to-play download when it releases next year on the App Store and Google Play. The app will show where Pokemon are located in real world locations around the player’s neighborhood, city and wherever they travel. Pokemon Go uses GPS location-tracking on smartphones to connect players with Pokemon. The camera on smartphones will also be incorporated for finding Pokemon.
Once the Pokemon are caught they can be used to battle people or trade them just like in the traditional games. There will also be public battle events where all players can join.
A small, wearable companion device called “Pokemon Go Plus” was also announced, which will alert players of nearby Pokemon and game events by a flashing LED light and vibration. This optional Poke Ball-looking device, that can be worn as a wristband or clipped to clothing, connects to the player’s smartphone through Bluetooth. It can also be used to catch Pokemon or perform other game actions. The device is being developed by Nintendo. Pricing for the Go Plus wasn’t announced.
Pokemon Go will have in-app purchases but details about them weren’t announced. How much will carry over from the base games or actual gameplay footage also wasn’t revealed.
Junichi Masuda, a founding member of Pokemon developer Game Freak and director of the franchise, is also involved in the project, working on its setting, music and design. Masuda said he’s contemplating ways Pokemon Go could be incorporated into the main games.
Satoru Iwata, the former president of Nintendo who recently passed away, was involved with the game’s development over the past two years from its inception. Iwata also worked closely with the Pokemon games since the franchise’s beginnings.
At the event Shigeru Miyamoto said Pokemon Go reminded him of Pokemon Snap, a photography simulation spin-off on the Nintendo 64 released in 1999. Miyamoto said Pokemon Go has the feel of that game but brings it into real world locations with the franchise’s core mechanics.
This isn’t the first time Pokemon series has released on mobile devices. Pokemon Shuffle Mobile! is a spin-off puzzle game for iOS and Android that released Aug. 31, which is a port of the 3DS downloadable title from earlier this year. Pokemon Go represents a style closer to the regular games.
Pokemon has traditionally released on Nintendo’s handheld platforms, starting in Japan on the Game Boy in 1996 before coming to the U.S. in 1998 with Pokemon Red and Blue. The franchise’s most recent games are Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire for the 3DS that released in November 2014, remakes of the 2003 Game Boy Advance originals.
Pokemon Go continues Nintendo’s new strategy to release its games on smartphones. In March the company announced a partnership with DeNA, a Japanese mobile company, to release new games of its popular franchises on those platforms. The first game of this partnership is scheduled to release this year.
Watch Pokemon Go’s live-action trailer: