As you may or may not have heard, some app company called Niantic made this app called Pokémon Go which has gained some popularity as of late. It’s a pretty standard app as they go, in that it’s terrible but still rakes in literal millions per day, and that its design was predated by some randomers years ago, who can now only watch through tear-stained eyes as the money flows right by them.
In 2014 a group of amateur developers called the Elite Four created a similar augmented reality Pokémon game for Hack the North, a school event in which budding developers and programmers had a couple of days to cobble together something impressive. The group, consisting of John Liu, Jack Gao, Kevin Nguyen and Edward Yang, spent over thirty-six straight hours creating a game not only eerily similar to Pokémon Go, but actually superior to it.
Well, sort of. It wasn’t particularly refined, it was only a 36 hour job after all. But while their effort, Open Pokémon was only a 2D game as opposed to Go’s 3D, it still featured the same “find Pokémon in the real world” gimmick that has made Go such a phenomenon, as well as a much more robust battle system. Instead of Go’s mindless flurry of tapping and waiting for the higher CP Pokémon to win, Open retained the actual battle mechanics from the game, and even added voice command for all your dramatic anime yelling needs.
With a bit of spit and polish Open could so easily have filled the spot that Go is right now. Let’s face it, Go is a terrible game. It’s bare-bones and pointless and, despite all the togetherness it promotes, lacks any actual kind of player-on-player interaction beyond basic trading. Not to mention it has spent like 97% of its time lagged out or shut down.
It’s not hard to see why the Elite Four failed where Niantic succeeded, however. In their presentation, they refer to the main series of Pokémon games as “clunky” and “not very fun”. That kind of disrespect must be punished on a cosmic level.
Still, it’s not too late for them, or anyone for that matter. Go has achieved what it has not because of its triumphs as a game, but because of the sheer magic intrinsic to the Pokémon franchise. Think back to things like Twitch Plays Pokémon and it’s clear that the series’ ability to bring people together for a weird and wonderful time has always been there. Go is just the beginning, and whether it’s Niantic itself or some other company who takes that next step is anyone’s guess.