Pokémon Go has impacted modern society, at least in the short term. But game maker Niantic's CEO John Hanke apparently has a much larger vision for how the game could change the world around us.
Hanke spoke this week about his vision for the game at VentureBeat's GamesBeat conference. His wildest idea: fully internet-integrated contact lenses that would allow players to see Pokémon in the world around them without a device interface.
The games share goals: Get people to move around. Get them to see the world with new eyes, discovering the lore and secrets of their city. Gently encourage exercise, something near to Hanke as a parent watching his kids stare at screens all day. Complement in-app purchases with another revenue stream. And help people connect offline.

Forging ahead in the games requires walking around and stopping at some of millions of major waypoints (museums, parks, murals and other culturally important, visually distinct locations). It was a “wacky notion” to combine gaming with civic engagement and “accidental” discovery of history, Hanke said.


Hanke, a science-fiction fanatic, said he expects smartwatches, fitness trackers and other wearables to eventually converge into glasses or, preferably, contact lenses that can place customized virtual overlays directly over sightlines — instead of people having to look down at a phone.

It’s “going to be created within our lifetime,” said Hanke, who’s worked with the Google team developing Glass eyewear.

But contact lenses are just one part of the plan. Hanke's idea isn't just to get people up and moving around, but to have an idea of where to drive them. The plan has always been to push for partner deals with big stores, public events, driving players to parks that need cleaning up: it's all a sort of utopian idea of how the game's collective players could be a force the game itself would command.

Though “Ingress” was a cult hit, Niantic thought attaching something from pop culture to the game would attract a bigger audience. Hanke sought out Pokemon, having seen his three children fill the house over the years with trading cards, guidebooks and video games tied to the animated franchise.

The fact that executives on the other side were hardcore “Ingress” players sealed the deal.

“Pokemon Go” is a fully re-engineered take on “Ingress,” a mobile game Hanke and a small team developed at Google after he spent six years as a high-level leader at the tech giant’s mapping division.

“The proof point with “Ingress” to show what they were capable of makes those decision easier,” said J.C. Smith, senior director of consumer marketing at Pokémon Co. International. “There wasn’t another game out there like that.”

The relationship solidified as Niantic separated from Google and became a standalone company last year, allowing Pokemon Co. and Pokemon game developer Nintendo to become shareholders alongside Google. Hanke turned down some venture capitalists, making the new partners feel ever more comfortable that their “crown jewel property” would be protected, he said.

Niantic layers events over “Ingress” to encourage players to meet and compete together and plans to do the same with “Pokemon Go.” It’s similar to how video gamers are increasingly playing and watching e-sports to connect with like-minded people. More than 250,000 people attended “Ingress” events last year. “Pokemon Go” would be a much bigger draw, making the venue search and safety precautions more complicated, Hanke said.

If Niantic (pronounced nigh-an-tic) really wants that level of control over its audience though, they're going to have to bring footstep tracking and rare Pokémon back to the game. And give us a timeline on when they'll add Pokémon beyond the original 150. And hey, maybe make trading and fighting among friends happen? hehe

Source : LA Times

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