Pokémon Go: a brief history


A bug collector’s fantasy

Pokémon is a Japanese creation. The man responsible for it, Satoshi Tajiri, was inspired by a childhood fascination with collecting bugs. The main games in the series are developed by Game Freak and published by Nintendo. Pokémon’s golden years shone through the late nineties and early 2000s, starting with Pokémon Red and Blue, which were released for the Game Boy in the US in 1998.

KOTAKU pokemon red blue
Each version of the first Pokémon games, Red and Blue, offered some unique Pokémon. / © kotaku.com

What is Pokémon?

The duo of games were essentially role-playing games (RPGs) that saw players control a character who wondered a coastal landscape, dotted with towns, forest and mountains. The land, called Kanto, was inhabited by a cast of strange and wonderful creatures, Pokémon, which the player was tasked with capturing in Pokéballs in order to catalog, train and fight them. The morality of keeping wild creatures in quantum states within tiny red and white balls and training them for exhausting and violent physical combat is widely ignored throughout the Pokémon universe.

The first Pokémon games featured 151 Pokémon scattered about Kanto, and the catchphrase “gotta catch ‘em all” urged players on to complete their Pokédex, an encyclopedia of all the Pokémon in existence. The task of catching ‘em all was made increasingly difficult through successive entries in the franchise, with over 720 Pokémon appearing in the sixth generation of the games.

While Nintendo feared that the concept might not appeal to the Western market, it was a huge success, most notably spawning a trading card game and TV anime series, which popularized Ash and Pikachu as the faces of the franchise. The term Pokémania was coined to put a name to the web of merchandise, movies and monster toys that sprang up, swallowing millions of dollars and launching Pokémon into the stratosphere.

The morality of keeping wild creatures in quantum states within tiny red and white balls and training them for exhausting and violent physical combat is widely ignored throughout the Pokémon universe

Demand for new Pokémon games has barely dwindled. The latest in the series, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, released in 2014, proved the most successful UK launch of any of the titles.

Pokémon Go

The concept for Pokémon Go began life as an April Fool’s prank in 2014. Niantic, owned by Google at the time, and Nintendo teamed up to create a YouTube video that announced the Pokémon Challenge, a Google Maps-based search for Pokémon that would reward the most diligent hunters with the title of Pokémon Master.

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