Pokemon Go’s innovation was people in the real world, says Niantic’s Tatsuo Nomura

Pokemon Go product manager Tatsuo Nomura

Pokemon Go’s innovation came from real people and the real world, rather than the technology, said Pokemon Go senior product manager Tatsuo Nomura.

Speaking at Spikes Asia this week, Nomura said: “When we design these games, our focus is not making the game but how Ingress agents and Pokemon trainers are people in the real world and that is our innovation.”

He explained that Niantic, which developed Pokemon Go and its predecessor Ingress, had a purpose to ‘take people outside’ and that was expressed via three core goals for its products; explore, exercise and socialise.

He also revealed that the idea around Pokemon Go partially developed while he was working for Google on Google Maps. He said he’d become the person who developed the April Fool’s Google Maps ideas and prototypes, the first of which was an 8-bit version of Maps. By 2014, he’d developed this into Pokemon experience, where you could catch Pokemon on Google Maps. Google announced that it was looking for Pokemon trainers, the content around it received over 20m views on YouTube.

Once he joined Niantic, which was already using augmented reality at real-world landmarks on Ingress, the Pokemon extension was explored to form Pokemon Go.

He said the game was bringing people together, rather than the cliche that gaming kept people inside and along.

“Fun is beyond what’s in your phone, it’s beyond the display, it’s Pokemon Go Sydney Walk. People started to organise events and hundreds turn up to play the game. You can play by yourself but it is more fun if you play with others,” he said.

With over 500m downloads, the game has been a runaway success. One of the goals around exercising has also been hit as Nomura said Pokemon trainers had now walked over 4.6 billion kilometers combined, more than the distance from the Sun to Pluto.

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