Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pokemon Brings Smartphone GPS Games to Forefront

MAIN-Pokemon-Go

When you think about GPS, you probably imagine satellites hovering over the Earth, sending down rays of signals to help pinpoint an exact location. Or perhaps it brings to mind your latest hike, run or ride. Maybe you think about getting directions to your in-laws house last Christmas, or your spouse getting lost (somehow) by not paying attention and forgetting their GPS. But for many people GPS will soon be synonymous with something completely different–gaming.

Smartphone gaming has been taking off in recent years, and so it’s not really that much of a surprise that a few companies have begun to utilize ways to use GPS technology to make a game more interactive. Heck, GPS games like Wherigo have been around for years. Even Geocaching is kind of a like a game. But now developers like Nintendo are getting in on the action with popular titles like Pokemon.

Last week, Nintendo formally announced that it has been working on an app called Pokemon GO which uses a phone’s GPS to let players “catch” the cute little Pokemon monsters in actual locations in the world. From what it sounds like, it’s sort of a midway between the Pokemon games that were popular in the 90s and something like a geocache, with specific locations hosting specific kinds of Pokemon. In order to collect the cute little monsters, players will have to visit different spots and complete tasks.

I admit I’m not the biggest Pokemon fan, but I have to say that it sounds like a pretty awesome way to get kids out in the world and also more cognizant of some of the cool technology like GPS. Here’s a promo video that Nintendo launched along with the app announcement sort of showing how it would work:

Of course, Nintendo is far from the first company to do this and several other GPS games already exist. In fact, the company that Nintendo has partnered with, Ingress, already has a very successful app available that is basically like a global virtual game of capture the flag. Traveler’s Quest is a similar GPS game that involves searching for digital treasure.

Regardless, a company like Nintendo entering the GPS gaming market with a super popular title like Pokemon is certainly going to make a big ripple in the use of GPS for gaming. The app itself is set to release in the fall of 2016 and will likely be available on Android and iPhone platforms. There’s even a wrist worn device which will help users stay aware of possible Pokemon in the area via GPS.

So what do you think? Cool idea or total waste of a useful technology? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

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