Pokemon GO is a revolutionary app in many respects, but has the Pokemon series been leading up to Go‘s creation since its 1996 origin?
To be frank, the widespread social phenomenon created by Pokemon GO embodies everything Pokemon stands for. With its emphasis on trading and battling monsters with others, the Pokemon series has always encouraged players to reach outside of their comfort zones and form friendships with fellow trainers. Yet Pokemon GO doesn’t merely copy the key tenets of its lineage and venture off on its own path; rather, Pokemon GO is an evolution of numerous concepts the franchise has played with throughout the past two decades!
Below are four examples of how Pokemon has been building up to a game like Pokemon GO. You may find much of this list to be shockingly familiar to you!
1: Pokemon Pikachu’s Pedometer
Released in North America less than two months after the iconic Pokemon Red and Blue Gameboy RPGs, the Pokemon Pikachu capitalized on both the emerging Pokemon franchise and the popularity of Tamagotchi pets during the time. That said, don’t mistake Pokemon Pikachu for a mere novelty, because this virtual pet planted the conceptual seeds for some big ideas.
The major link between Pokemon Pikachu and Pokemon GO is the handheld’s pedometer. Players who walked around with the device on hand were awarded “watts” that unlocked playable minigames and special gifts for the virtual Pikachu. Pokemon GO clearly embraces the idea of making its users move, specifically in relation to its egg-hatching mechanic that involves walking a predetermined distance. In a way, perhaps Pokemon Pikachu was preparing kids for their inevitable future of carrying around an electronic device in their pockets at all times.
2: The 3DS’ StreetPass
The 3DS is a general Nintendo handheld and not a Pokemon product specifically, but since there are numerous Pokemon themed 3DS’ and you need the console to play the latest Pokemon games, we’re allowing this one on the list. Besides, when looking at the console’s social features, it’s clear Nintendo was imagining a game like Pokemon GO in its future.
The 3DS’ StreetPass feature allows users to near-anonymously exchange “tags” with other people carrying a 3DS in the vicinity, which encourages owners of the system to walk around with it as much as possible. Depending on the games each person owns, “tags” can involve anything from exclusive items in a game to a simple greeting. However, users can also get StreetPass tags by visiting “Nintendo Zone Locations,” which are places that award passersby with a plethora of tags from 3DS owners who had previously visited the location. Perhaps this isn’t a dead ringer for the PokeStops in Pokemon GO, but they’re similar enough to illustrate the concepts Nintendo was toying with for its games.
3: The Pokewalker’s Pokemon Battles
The Pokewalker was a companion device bundled with new copies of Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver that could communicate directly with the games via infrared signals. It’s in many ways inspired by the classic Pokemon Pikachu virtual pet, but the Pokewalker adds a few interesting twists to the formula that seem to have inspired Pokemon GO.
Like the Pokemon Pikachu, the Pokewalker awards a currency called “watts” to the player for walking around with the device on their belt. However, rather than spending money to play minigames, the Pokewalker allows players to spend watts to initiate encounters with wild Pokemon. Pokemon caught via the Pokewalker could be sent back into copies of HeartGold and SoulSilver, which enables players to obtain rare monsters early in their adventure. So yes, even if the execution isn’t identical, we have a device that literally requires players to walk around in the real world to initiate encounters with wild Pokemon. Sounds familiar, yes?
4: Event Pokemon
Ever since Mew was hidden inside Pokemon Red and Blue, the Pokemon series has always included special creatures that couldn’t be legitimately obtained just by playing the game. In other words, Pokemon enjoys motivating players to physically visit certain locations to catch ’em all.
To be fair, this was a mildly remarkable feature at best during the early days of the franchise. These unique Pokemon were usually given away at special Pokemon or Nintendo events, so most players probably wouldn’t be in attendance for the sole purpose of filling their Pokedex. However, the nature of event Pokemon became awfully curious from the 4th generation games onward. Even though the Wi-Fi capabilities of the Nintendo DS allowed Pokemon players to receive exclusive monsters online via “Mystery Gifts,” there would still be event Pokemon that required players to check out specific locations to obtain them. For instance, a special Level 100 Arceus was obtainable exclusively from a kiosk at participating Toys R Us locations, and just this year we’ve seen download codes for Mew and Darkrai distributed from Gamestop. Is it any surprise, then, that a game like Pokemon GO would be built on the established foundation of venturing out into the world to catch Pokemon?
Pokemon GO has proven itself to be a nostalgic throwback for many gamers who grew up with the classic gameboy RPGs, and for longtime fans of the series, Pokemon has spent a long time training us for a game like this. How Pokemon GO will develop from here remains a mystery, but if you want to search for hints that tell us what to expect next, then perhaps we’d better look at the games we’ve had in our libraries all along.