If you’re a Pokémon fan, then you’ve no doubt been patiently waiting for more news about Pokémon GO over the past couple of months. Pokémon GO is an augmented reality (AR) mobile phone game that uses your real world location and your phone’s cameras and sensors to display Pokémon in the world around you that you then must catch and train like a true Pokémon Trainer.
Now that the US Field Test has begun, which is their phrase for a Closed Beta, they’ve decided to reveal more details about how the game actually plays in real-time. According to a press release, as well as posts on the official Pokémon GO and Niantic Labs websites, we’ve got the first details on battle gameplay, how the game will be monetized, the physical device companion, and more. Previously, we found out a few tidbits about the first official gameplay features shortly after footage from SXSW leaked, but the details were very limited. Now, we have some hard facts about how everything is pieced together and what the actual game looks like in action.
Battles, Teams, and Gym Mechanics
After you catch a Pokémon, you can use them in battle to “gain control” of a Gym. Combat happens in real-time as you actually swipe left and right on your phone to dodge and attack other Pokémon. As you defeat Pokémon at a Gym – which are scattered around in the real world at different locations – the Gym’s prestige will start to drop.
After it reaches zero, the winning Trainer can assign their Pokémon to defend the Gym in their absence. Members of your team can train their Pokémon at the Gym to increase its prestige, which allows for more Pokémon stationed to defend it, making it more difficult to overtake. And just like in the Pokémon games you know and love, you can even battle other Trainers you come across just walking down the street.
At a certain point in the game, you’ll apparently be allowed to join one of three teams that let you group up and work together to take over Gym locations. Working within your team assuredly has major benefits.
I can already see the global coalitions of teams and sub-squads that will form to try and take over all of the Gyms on the planet. It’s an exciting prospect that was never fully realized with Niantic’s previous attempt at a global AR MMO, but the Pokémon brand could push the concept over the edge for sure. We fully intend on forming a Gym at the Upload Collective if possible, or at the very least a team of some kind, so stay tuned for that!
The Pokémon GO Plus
We also got details about a physical companion device that will be released to bring you even closer to the world of Pokémon. When you wear the watch-like device, you won’t have to constantly check your phone for updates on the game world. Instead, you’ll get notifications via a bluetooth connection and can even do simple things like catch Pokémon while you’re on the go.
Hopefully we get news about a physical Pokédex device as well that syncs with the GO Plus and your phone’s account. Finally, our dreams of becoming real Pokémon Trainers are about as close to reality as they’ll ever get.
Evolution and Customization
Pokémon GO will feature over 100 different Pokémon at launch, with even more coming after release hopefully. Since there are so many worlds and environments to choose from, naturally you’ll have to get out and explore a lot to fill your Pokédex. You have to actually get out and explore the world to find new Pokémon, or buy eggs at PokéStops, which are also spread out around the actual earth – requiring you to build up enough steps for them to hatch. But in addition to finding them in the wild, you can also evolve your Pokémon by catching several of the same species. You can see how that process looks in the screenshots below.
And when you first log onto the game itself, you’ll get the chance to customize your trainer’s appearance, as that is your virtual representation to other people in the world of Pokémon GO. It shows up on the world map to others, on your profile page, and when other trainers visit a Gym that you control. We’ll likely see many of the clothing and customization options that have debuted in recent Pokémon handheld titles.
Once released, Pokémon GO will be 100% free-to-play to download for Android and iOS. However, there will be a form of monetization of course via PokéCoins. Here are more details on that:
“For players who want to enhance their Pokémon GO experience even more, certain items and features can be accessed via in-app purchases. Players can spend real money on PokéCoins, the in-game currency of Pokémon GO. PokéCoins can then be exchanged for power-ups, extra items, and other enhancements.”
And that’s all we know so far. While we haven’t had a chance to get our hands on this AR game quite yet, we are extremely excited about the prospect. Who hasn’t always wanted to be a real life Pokémon Trainer?