Let’s start with the truth. I, being a complete non-gaming freak, obviously have not played Pokémon GO yet but if I don’t download this game today, I probably will soon be declared an alien. I accept my delay. Because for me, Pokémon is still that glowing tattoo in that Uncle Chipps packet. Google says it is a free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game, developed by Niantic. This technical definition seems a bit confusing. In simple words, Pokémon Go is a game that uses your phone’s GPS and clock to detect where and when you are in the game and make Pokémon appear around you (on your phone screen) so you can go and catch them. Just one week into its launch, it’s gone viral, suddenly and massively. It has seen more downloads than Tinder, Twitter and other popular apps. Everyone is SO busy downloading the game and its cheat codes that very few people are aware of its founder and how the idea of Pokémon GO actually started. John Hanke, the creator of Pokémon GO, took 20 years to make it look like an overnight success.
In 2000, he launched ‘Keyhole’ to come up with a way to link maps with aerial photography, and create the first online, GPS-linked 3D aerial map of the worlds. In 2004, Google later bought Keyhole and with John’s help, turned Keyhole into what is called now ‘Google Earth’. After that, he decided to focus on creating GPS-based games.
John headed the Google Geo team from 2004 to 2010 and developed Google Maps and Google Street View. During this time, he also prepared his own team that would later create Pokémon Go.
In 2010, John launched his own company, Niantic Labs, funded by Google to create a game layer on maps and soon, this small company designed its first geo-based multiplayer game called ‘Ingress’ in 2012, which was a big hit.
In 2014, Google and the Pokémon Company played a prank together for an April Fools’ Day joke, which allowed people to find Pokémon creatures on Google maps. It was a viral hit, and that’s when he got this idea to develop it into a game.
John decided to build Pokémon Go on the user-generated meeting points created by players of ‘Ingress’, and the most popular became the Pokéstops and gyms in Pokémon Go.
John raised $25 million from Google, Nintendo, the Pokémon Company and other investors from Dec 2015 to Feb 2016 to grow a team of 40+ to launch Pokémon Go this year and finally he and his team launched Pokémon Go on 6 July in USA, Australia and New Zealand.