Pokémon GO Creator’s Next Game Will Integrate Audio Cues into the AR Experience

Pokémon GO creators Niantic are looking at ways to incorporate audio into future AR game experiences, according to the company's chief technology officer.

Speaking on a panel discussing augmented reality at TechCrunch's Disrupt event, Niantic CTO Phil Keslin said that audio cues would mean players wouldn't have to awkwardly hold their phone up while interacting with games like GO.

"I can tell you from experience that people don't do this," he said, mimicking how people playing an AR game would hold their phones. "It's very unnatural. It makes them look like a total doofus if they're doing it for an extended period of time," he added.

"In Pokémon GO, the only time they really use it is to share their encounter with the Pokémon. To take that one picture, which is natural…. Everybody takes a picture, and then they're done. It's not walking around the world with the phone in front of their face," he said.
Considering alternative solutions, Keslin suggested audio could be integrated into AR experience. "Audio is different," he said. "You can hide that." Most people today walk around with their audio earbuds stuck in their ears all the time, he noted. "Nobody knows that they're being augmented then."

Keslin later explained that audio was something Niantic had toyed with when they were building Ingress, a location-based, augmented reality game considered a precursor to Pokémon GO.

Audio integration was considered in a variety of ways, according to the CTO, for example, suggesting to players which location they should visit, or having their phone call them with further clues when they reached a waypoint. Another possibility was combining audio with a phone's sensors, like an accelerometer, to know what a person was doing. "AR is not just visual," he added.

Asked if audio clues would ever come to Pokémon GO, Keslin told TechCrunch: "Maybe. Or maybe we'd use it in other games," he said, smiling. "We're not a one-game wonder."

Related Roundup: Apple VR Project
Tags: Pokémon GO, ARKit

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Niantic Refunds Guests as Pokémon Go Fest Plagued by Network Problems and Game Bugs

This past weekend, Niantic held a real-life event for the popular iOS and Android game Pokémon Go, called Pokémon Go Fest, where fans from all over the world descended upon Chicago to hunt for Pokémon in Grant Park. Ahead of the event, Niantic promised increased Pokémon encounters, challenges and rewards for the game's three teams, an exclusive in-game medal, special PokéStops, and more.


Unfortunately, the anniversary event was met with disgruntled attendees once network issues and game bugs were discovered by some of the 20,000 visitors to Chicago (via NBC Chicago). Niantic chief marketing officer Mike Quigley described the problems to fans during the event:
“One is a network issue. One of the providers is trying to pump in some more bandwidth so that’s something that we’re working with them closely on,” CMO Mike Quigley said onstage. “The other two issues are on the Niantic side. There’s a crash bug issue that we’ve identified. I know some of you have had that issue, as well as an authentication issue, so we’ve got it completely pinpointed to those three things.”
Some fans, speaking to CNBC, said that the problems became less frequent as the day went on, because Niantic began implementing quick fixes in the game -- like reducing animations -- to get it to run smoother.
"I spent more time trying to get the game to load than I have playing it," said Laura, who was using a phone with AT&T service. But early on, network issues were affecting all four of the major US carriers. "It was rough in the morning," said Abbie Harrison, a Verizon customer. "They're turning off animations for the lures and stuff to make it run better. It's running better now. I'm actually able to log in. It was really spotty and nothing would show up on my screen. I can now actually see and do things."
In response, Niantic is offering those who went to Pokémon Go Fest in Chicago a full $20 refund on their tickets, as well as $100 in-game credit in the form of Pokécoins. The developer also expanded the range of special Pokémon and PokéStops that appeared during the event to a two mile radius, giving attendees a chance to move farther out from Grant Park and get better cellular reception.

Image via Pokémon Go on YouTube

The event marked the start of Legendary Pokémon appearing within the game, so in response to the sign-in problems Niantic is gifting all registered attendees Lugia into their Pokémon Go accounts.

Game bugs, crashes, and server problems have been associated with Pokémon Go since the app launched last summer, which Niantic has largely addressed with various updates to the game. With Pokémon Go Fest in Chicago over, a similar festival has already been announced in Yokohama, Japan for sometime in August.


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Niantic CEO Discusses For-Profit Cheating and Production Delays in Pokémon Go’s First Year

One year ago this week, Pokémon Go began appearing on the App Store in the United States and around the world. Following the announcement of various in-game and real life events celebrating the anniversary, Niantic CEO John Hanke recently sat down with The Verge to talk about the game's first year, including for-profit cheaters, a six-month development delay due to the huge success of the game, and more.

Concerning the current state of certain fan-requested updates (player-versus-player battles and Pokémon trading), Hanke said that those features have been delayed because of Pokémon Go's unpredictably huge launch. In total, Niantic lost as much as six months on its production schedule due to the team needing to shift to "rebuilding and rewiring infrastructure" to keep the game running, taking precedence over substantial new updates.

Pokémon Go when it launched July 2016
We lost probably six months on our schedule because of the success of the game. Really all the way through November and December, from launch onward we were rebuilding and rewiring infrastructure just to keep the game running at the scale that we were running at.

We were fortunate to have a massive launch, a massive success, and many, many more users than we had planned for. But we had to redirect a substantial portion of the engineering team to [work on] infrastructure versus new features. That switched off things like extending gyms, it pushed out things we still want to have, like player-versus-player and trading. I’d say we’re about six months behind where we thought we would be.
Hanke admitted that if the team had known it would face such huge delays on its schedule, "maybe we wouldn't have talked so much about" PvP and trading updates so early on. The CEO went on to explain that Niantic's communication with fans has "become much more open over time," following an initial lack of consensus with the developer's partners (The Pokémon Company and Nintendo) over how to handle vocal communities on Reddit, Twitter, and other social media sites.

In terms of cheating, Hanke talked about how there are now "actual commercial entities" that advertise ways to level up players' profiles and advance in the game, which received enough interest and revenue from Pokémon Go players to become "real businesses." Hanke said that Niantic faced similar experiences, albeit on a smaller scale, with its previous game Ingress.

To keep the game fair for everyone, there are now dedicated resources inside Niantic cracking down on these cheating businesses.
Because of the scale [of Pokémon Go], there are actual commercial entities that sprung up that were offering services to level up your account or do various other things, and were real businesses. Therefore they’re able to invest significant resources in these things. We didn’t really anticipate that scale of commercial-funded cheating, which is a challenge to keep the game fair for everyone.

We dedicate resources to it for sure. There are people working on that that could be working on features, but they’re not. It’s a fraction of the team. It’s not as if half of the team is working on that. It’s significantly less than that. But there is a chunk of resources that we devote to that.
Hanke still doesn't make it clear when exactly PvP and Pokémon trading will be making it to Pokémon Go. Recently, Niantic updated the game with a revamped Gym system and announced co-op raid battles, while Hanke talked about his excitement for Apple's ARKit developer platform and what it will do for Pokémon Go, stating, "I don’t think anyone should bet against Apple."

Check out The Verge's full interview with John Hanke here.


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Niantic Reveals Major Pokémon Go Update With Revamped Gyms, Co-op Raid Battles Coming Soon

Niantic and The Pokémon Company today revealed an all-new gym system heading to the popular mobile app Pokémon Go soon, as well as announcing a new cooperative "Raid Battle" update coming in the future. For gyms, the developer said that its goal was to encourage more players to head to friendly gyms because now they'll be able to interact with them in new ways.

Notably, gyms will now act as PokéStops and include a spinnable disc that gives players unique items like Poké Balls. The basic structure of a gym is being altered as well, so now six Pokémon can occupy a gym and each one must be unique, preventing duplicates of the same Pokémon from appearing multiple times in one gym battle. Enemy teams will battle these Pokémon in the order they were added to the Gym, not in the order of their combat power as before.


Pokémon will also need to be motivated to stay inside a gym with the new "motivation system." Over time, each Pokémon will lose motivation naturally and as they are defeated in battle, temporarily lowering its combat power so enemy teams will be able to more easily defeat the gym. To help keep up a Pokémon's motivation, friendly team members can feed it berries.

Niantic said that all of these updates will feed into the new gym badges system as well, which will reward players for taking part in battles and feeding berries to Pokémon.
Now you’ll be able to earn Gym Badges when interacting with the many Gyms around the world. Gym Badges serve as mementos of your Pokémon GO adventures and reflect your contribution to a Gym’s success.

You’ll be able to level up your Badges by battling, giving Berries to the Pokémon in the Gym and spinning the Gym’s Photo Disc. You can earn the opportunity to receive bonus items and increased rewards from Gyms by raising the level of your Gym Badge.
In the coming weeks, players will be able to take on new "Raid Battles" at gyms, which Niantic described as a cooperative experience that forces trainers to work together to take down a Raid Boss. Before a Raid Battle begins, Pokémon at the gym in question will return to their trainers and a large egg will appear on top of the gym with a countdown clock.

When the countdown reaches zero the Raid Boss is revealed and players will be able to take on the challenge as long as they have a Raid Pass, which can be obtained each day by visiting a Gym, but only one can be held at a time. Up to twenty players can be in a Raid Battle at once, working together to take down the boss, similar to the original announcement trailer for the game back in 2015.


If the boss is defeated in under five minutes, each participant will have a chance to catch an "extra powerful Pokémon," as well as a few new items.
After defeating a Raid Boss, you’ll receive a collection of rewards, including some new items obtained only by defeating a Raid Boss: Rare Candies, Golden Razz Berries, and two types of Technical Machines—Fast and Charged. A Rare Candy is a mysterious candy that, when used on a Pokémon, turns into that Pokémon’s Candy. Golden Razz Berries will greatly increase your chances of catching a Pokémon you encounter in the wild and can also be given to a Pokémon assigned to a Gym to fully recover its motivation meter. Technical Machines are items you can use to permanently teach a Pokémon a new Fast Attack or Charged Attack.
Niantic said that the gym update will begin rolling out to players around the world "very soon" (until then, gyms are disabled in the game), and Raid Battles will show up over the next few weeks, beginning in beta form. Recently, Niantic revealed some events occurring out in the real world to celebrate the one year anniversary of the app, which debuted in July of 2016, while Niantic CEO John Hanke commented on Apple's upcoming ARKit developer platform and how it will change Pokémon Go and AR apps in general.


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Pokémon Go Announces In-Game and Real Life Anniversary Events as Niantic Touts Apple’s ARKit

It's just under a month until the one year anniversary of Pokémon Go, which began appearing on the iOS App Store in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand in early July of 2016. To celebrate the occasion, developer Niantic today revealed a few events coming to Pokémon trainers both inside of the game and outside, in the form of real-life Pokémon Go Festivals.

Starting off within the game, the Solstice Event will kick off next week on June 13 and feature Fire-type and Ice-type Pokémon prominently in the wild, increased XP bonuses for accurate Poké Ball throws, and Lucky Egg discounts in the shop. Further updates and events were left vague by Niantic, but the company said that trainers can look forward to a new update soon "focused on collaborative group gameplay."


Gyms will be temporarily disabled for a period of time to prepare for the Solstice Event, but the developer didn't specify when that will happen. Additionally, Niantic announced that its game has reached 750 million global downloads.
We’re celebrating two amazing milestones—Pokémon GO’s one-year anniversary and 750 million global downloads—and you’re invited to join in on the fun! Over the next few months, we’re hosting real-world and in-game events planned alongside some very exciting new features that will get you outside exploring the world with family and friends. Get ready for an action-packed couple of months!
Staying true to Pokémon Go's gameplay, Niantic also announced Pokémon Go Fest Chicago, which will encourage players to get outside and visit downtown Chicago's Grant Park on July 22 to participate in various Pokémon-themed activities. Tickets for the event, as well as more detailed information, will go live on June 19. Similar festivities will be held across Europe from June to September, as well as in Yokohama, Japan where a "Pikachu Outbreak" event will debut in August.

Earlier this week, Apple announced a new augmented reality developer platform called ARKit at its WWDC keynote, describing how the technology will generate more true-to-life AR interactions within games like Pokémon Go. At the Brilliant Minds conference in Stockholm this week (via Bloomberg), Niantic CEO John Hanke reinforced the idea that Apple's push into AR should not be taken lightly.
“I don’t think anyone should bet against Apple,” John Hanke said at the Brilliant Minds conference in Stockholm. "I personally think AR is going to be a really important next computing platform that can succeed the mobile phone. It’s a few years off."
According to Hanke, the new and ARKit-backed version of Pokémon Go will be released this fall. During WWDC, Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi presented ARKit and the Pokémon Go update enhancements coming soon, stating, "The Pokémon is so real, he's right there on the ground. As the ball bounces, it actually bounces right there in the real environment. It's AR like you've never seen it before."


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‘Pokémon Go’ Gaining 80 New Pokémon Later This Week

Starting later this week, popular augmented reality game Pokémon Go will gain tons of new content in the form of 80 new Pokémon that are being introduced to the game.

The Pokémon come from the Johto region in the Pokémon Silver and Pokémon Gold games, and will include both new Pokémon and new evolutions. Gender-specific variations are also being implemented.


Some Johto region Pokémon have been previously added to the game through various holiday updates and promotions, but this will be the biggest update to the Pokémon Go since it was first released last summer.

New berries are being added to the game, along with new items that are required for some of the Johto Pokémon evolutions. Both will be available from PokéStops. The berries will include the Nanab Berry, which will slow a Pokémon's movements to make it easier to catch, and the Pinap Berry, which doubles the amount of Candy received if the next capture attempt is successful.

Pokémon Go is also gaining new encounter gameplay, and Niantic says Pokémon encountered in the wild may "react in new ways" when you're attempting to catch them. A new item carousel will also allow users to select berries and Poké Balls without needing to open the backpack.

The final new feature coming this week is an expanded wardrobe and new outfit options for a player's avatar. A new selection of hats, shirts, pants, and other items are being added to the game.

Excitement for Pokémon Go has died down in the months since its release, but the game continues to have a loyal fan base and Niantic has been committed to making regular feature updates to keep players engaged.

Pokémon Go can be downloaded from the App Store at no cost. [Direct Link]


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Pokémon Go Trading and Real-Time Player Battles Coming Soon, Says Niantic

Pokémon Go fans waiting for a new reason to resume their engagement with the hit augmented reality title may have reason to cheer. According to MacRumors sister site TouchArcade, two features that were sorely missing in the game's original incarnation – real-time player battles and Pokémon trading – are said to be coming "soon".

John Hanke, founder and CEO of Pokémon Go developer Niantic, revealed in an interview that both co-operative trading and player vs player battles are in the works, although their introduction is likely to be staggered via a series of updates, in what he called "an abbreviated form".


The omission of the two features around launch time was said to be down to the daunting server issues the company experienced shortly after the debut of Pokémon Go last summer. Hanke revealed that if the company hadn't been so busy trying to keep the servers online, at least one of the features would likely have been in version 1 of the game.

"It’s going to be done soon," Hanke told Waypoint. "It is what it is. I'll take the massive wave of hysteria we enjoyed, and just deal with the fact that it's caused us to take a bit longer to get the rest of the features up. We're really happy to make our users happy."


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Pokémon Go Makes a Late Debut in South Korea

Pokémon Go finally launched in South Korea today, almost six months after the popular game's initial launch.

Developers Niantic had to overcome some unique challenges to bring Pokémons to the hugely lucrative gaming market because of the way the game relies on Google Maps to work.

pokemon-go-apple-watch
Those functions are limited by the government for national security reasons, because the country is technically at war with North Korea, so Niantic had to use publicly available data sources to fill in the gaps.

Last year, some fans of the augmented reality title travelled to Sokcho, close to the border with North Korea, because the city is not classified as South Korean territory in Google Maps, which allowed the game to be played there.

According to The Associate Press, dedicated tour and travel packages were created for gamers to stay in Sokcho, where local businesses and restaurants embraced Pokémon to appeal to gamers, whose annual average gaming spend is said to be the highest in the world.


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Pokémon GO for Apple Watch Now Available on App Store

Niantic has announced Pokémon GO is now available for Apple Watch, enabling players to discover nearby Pokémon and collect items from PokéStops directly from their wrists. The companion app is bundled with the latest update to Pokémon GO for iPhone and iPad [Direct Link], version 1.21.2, rolling out on the App Store today.

pokemon-go-apple-watch
Pokémon GO for Apple Watch enables players to log each play session as a Workout, with gameplay counting toward personal Activity rings, receive notifications about nearby Pokémon, view distances toward hatching Pokémon Eggs, receive notifications when Eggs hatch and medals are awarded, and more at a glance.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch Series 2, watchOS 3
Tag: Pokémon GO
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

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Niantic Says Pokémon GO for Apple Watch is ‘Coming Soon’ Following Cancellation Hoax

Over the weekend, a Reddit user shared an image of a fake email which appeared to claim Pokémon GO for Apple Watch had been abandoned. A subsequent report, citing "a source with knowledge of the plans," said development of the companion Apple Watch app had indeed been shelved.

pokemon-go-apple-watch-1
Pokémon GO developer Niantic confirmed the image in the Reddit post "is not real" in a statement sent to TechCrunch and Recode, and debunked the subsequent report in the process by noting development of the companion Apple Watch app continues, as it has since before the app was announced in September.

Pokémon GO also confirmed on Twitter that the Apple Watch app is "coming soon."
Rene Ritchie at iMore, citing "a couple sources," believes Pokémon Go for Apple Watch is "still on track for a 2016 launch."
Ritchie believes Apple and Niantic are likely taking the time to ensure Pokémon GO's integration with the Apple Watch is done right.
So where is it? There's a certain amount of complexity involved in making Pokémon Go for Apple Watch. It ties into both the Apple Watch Workout system, which means you'll get credit towards your activity goals while out catching Pokémon, and HealthKit, which syncs all the information. The latter especially has some of the most involved privacy systems Apple has ever deployed, and my guess is Niantic and Apple are taking the time to make sure all that integration is done right.
Pokémon GO for Apple Watch was unveiled at an Apple media event in September. Skip to the 25:20 mark in the video below.


The app will provide Pokémon GO players with at-a-glance information, such as how far they need to walk to hatch a particular egg. The main screen shows the player's current level and XP remaining to get to the next. Pokémon GO walks are recorded in Workouts, helping players achieve their Activity goals.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch Series 2, watchOS 3
Tag: Pokémon GO
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

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