Everything you need to know about Pokémon GO

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock with your fingers in your ears over the past week, you will have heard about Pokémon GO, the latest mobile craze that is sweeping the globe. But what exactly is Pokémon GO? How does it work? How can you play it? This article aims to help you budding trainers on your journey to become a Pokémon master.

What is Pokémon GO?

Pokémon GO is a free-to-play mobile game based on the classic franchise Pokémon. The Pokémon – which stands for pocket monsters – franchise was first created in 1996 with the release of Pokémon red and blue. The games are centred on catching and training these wild Pokémon and battling with them, with the goal of catching every available Pokémon. Initially, there were 151 Pokémon for aspiring trainers to catch, and this number has now increased to over 700.

The game provided hugely successful and popular with children upon release, and has sold over 200 million copies since the first game release two decades ago. The franchise, owned by the Pokémon Company, now includes trading cards, toys, a hugely successful anime TV-show and 19 feature film releases. And now, as of July this year, Pokémon has expanded even further to mobile games, and in the process is taking the world by storm.

Pokémon GO is a different take on the classic Pokémon games, and adapts many of the mechanics of its predecessors into a new medium. Rather than sitting still as you play on a handheld console, you move around with your mobile device, catching Pokémon in different locations based on your GPS location. Once a Pokémon appears, you can see it on the street in front of you through an augmented reality feature, which has already led to some hilarious photos. Since its release on Wednesday the 6th of July, the game has become the most downloaded app on the app store, and According to Bloomburg, it already has more active users than tinder and will soon have more daily users than TWITTER. The rise of Pokémon GO has been unprecedented, and it is already having some major effects on people’s lives.

How does Pokémon GO work?

Pokémon GO is developed by Niantic, a Google spin-off that has a history of developing location-based games. It is a combination of location-based gaming and augmented reality gaming, blurring the lines between the real world and the imaginary. After downloading the game from the app-store, you create a character (as well as give them a hilarious name), that represents you in the game. Using your smartphone’s GPS and location services, your real-world location is tracked and replicated by the game’s rendered 3D map provided, and your animated character moves with you.

Different Pokémon appear in different locations, and the game rewards you for travelling on foot to different locations. As mentioned before, the game’s augmented reality system shows the Pokémon in front of you through your phone’s camera, and you then have to flick ‘Pokeballs’ at them in order to catch them and show off to your friends. The more you walk, the more stuff you find, and the faster you will level up. It’s all a big cycle, so the best way to get good at the game is to walk walk walk!

Perhaps most importantly, Pokémon Go is free to play! The only thing it will cost you – apart from the hours and hours you will eventually spend obsessing over it – are in-game micro-transactions, which allow you to use real money to make in-game purchases. However, these are completely optional. The game also uses minimal data, so you don’t have to worry about burning through your monthly data allowance in a week.

Of course there are many more aspects of the game that can be better explained by the official Pokémon go website.

Can my phone run pokemon Go?

Pokemon Go pushes the limits of your phone probably more than any other app you have, after all, this is augmented reality we’re talking about. Unfortunately, that means in order to get in on the craze, you need a phone that’s up to the task. First and foremost, Pokemon Go is only available on Android and IOS devices, meaning users on other operating systems such as Windows and Blackberry unfortunately miss out.

So your phone is on Android or IOS – awesome, but now for the spec requirements. Older phones will struggle to run this game, you can check if your phone is capable of playing Pokemon Go by comparing your phone specs to the minimum operating specs below.

For Android:

  • Android Jelly Bean & Above
  • Processor: 1.0 ghz dualcore or better
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Hard Disk: 10 MB Free memory space
  • Graphics: Adreno 305 or better

What does this mean?
If you’ve bought a brand new android smart phone in the past 6 months, chances are it will meet these requirements. As a rule of thumb, a Samsung galaxy s4, or an equivalently powered Android phone is around the absolute minimum to play Pokemon Go.

For IOS:

  • Operating System: iOS 6 and above
  • Processor: 1 ghz Cortex-A8 or better
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Hard Disk: 10 MB Free memory space
  • Graphics: PowerVR SGX535 or better

What does this mean?

Pokemon Go will require at least an iPhone 5, so even if anyone still owns a humble iPhone 4, it’s time to upgrade if you’re to catch them all.

Pokemon Go has it’s a lot of glitches and kinks to work out as is, but if your phone only barely meets the minimum requirements, it will struggle to run the game. That means if you’re passionate Pokemon, it might be worth forking out a little extra money for a better quality phone.

How Pokémon GO can affect your life

The positive effects:

The most obvious positive impact Pokémon Go is having on people is exercise. As already said, the game rewards people for walking, particularly when it comes the particular mechanic that is hatching eggs. Pokémon Eggs in the game can be hatched by walking 2, 5 or 10km, and usually have rarer Pokémon within them, depending on which distance is required. This mechanic doesn’t work past a certain speed, so Pokémon GO is encouraging walking and getting fresh air, which is something that people do less and less in today’s video gaming culture. There are many cases on the official Pokémon GO Reddit page of overweight users exercising for the first time in years in order to catch some of their favourite Pokémon. Some are even setting goals of hatching one Pokémon egg a day by walking, and some people are just using the game as an excuse to get out and spend some quality time with their families. Whatever the reason, Pokémon GO might be the first video game in quite some time to actually improve people’s fitness, as well as their mental health.

The other major benefit of Pokémon GO is the increased socialization it can bring. The tweet above shows the hundreds of people swarming around Union Square in Manhattan. I have already spoken to other players at certain popular locations about the game, and there are many instances of people with difficulties socializing meeting new people and even meeting potential partners through the wonder that is Pokémon. This is certainly something that the world needs right now, as people hardly ever look up from their mobile phones when out and about anymore. There are events all over Facebook for meet-ups, picnics and pub-crawls with the sole-purpose of playing Pokémon GO together, so if you’re someone who struggles in social situations, this might be a great way for you to meet new people.

And of course, the game can just be good for a laugh.

The negative effects:

While the positive effects of the game are very positive indeed, there are also some negatives that need to be addressed. The most obvious danger is that you might lose awareness for your surroundings while catching that precious Blastoise,  and there are cases springing up all over the world of people injuring themselves because they were too busy looking at their phones while walking.

There are also instances of people wandering into places that they shouldn’t. The Northern Territory Police Department made a Facebook post to deal with dozens of trainers walking in and out of their headquarters due to the fact that they were right on top of a Pokestop. People have also been robbed in some instances due to wandering into isolated Pokestops late at night, as some thieves deduced that these places would be easy targets. One unlucky Pokémon Go user apparently found a dead body as well.

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How Pokémon GO is affecting the business world

As mentioned before, Pokémon Go is already the most downloaded app in the app store has more users than tinder and will soon overtake twitter in terms of active users! It has gained a massive following worldwide, and this is before it is even available in major countries like Canada. There have been 7.5 million downloads in the US alone according to Forbes, and is bringing in $1.6 Million in daily revenue in Apple’s iOS store. Perhaps most importantly, shares of Nintendo Co. Ltd, who own the gaming rights to the Pokémon franchise, have increased in value by a staggering 24%! The game has added almost $8 billion to Nintendo’s value. Mind boggling.

Business graph - source bloomberg
Source: Bloomberg

Many small businesses are taking advantage of the game as well. One of the features of Pokémon Go are ‘Pokestops’, which are markers set at important or notable locations across the world. These stops give players items every 5 minutes, and can also be used to lure wild Pokémon to your location and make them appear more often. Smart businesses are utilizing nearby Pokestops, advertising them to aspiring Pokémon trainers and even offering discounts for people who catch Pokémon near their stores. Many businesses are also using lure modules to attract customers, as these lure modules greatly increase the chances of encountering nearby Pokémon for everyone in the general vicinity. With a little bit of marketing and timely engagement, your businesses could use Pokémon GO to attract and interact with clients in a fun, light-hearted way.

How to save battery while playing Pokémon GO

According to Canstar Blue research, battery life is one the biggest complaints Aussies have with smartphones, and one of the biggest issues with the game that users are reporting is havoc that it reeking on their phones already weak battery. Augmented reality and location-based games are well-known for chewing through smartphone batteries due to the processing power needed to play them. When succeeding in the game is based on travelling long-distances, it can be detrimental when your phone dies after barely more than an hour. If you follow these tips, you can stay charged and ready to be the very best.

  1. Lower your screen brightness. The iPhone’s minimum brightness setting uses roughly 54% less battery than the maximum brightness, and other brands were around 30%, so lowering your screens brightness as low as you can go while still being able to see.
  2. Turn off the volume. Turning the in-game volume off ensures that your phone doesn’t spend any precious battery on your speakers or headphones when you don’t need them.
  3. Disable background apps. This was a common technique for saving power long before Pokémon GO arrived on the scene. Close all other apps when playing Pokémon go – you won’t be needing them, and it is costing battery power to keep them running.
  4. Utilize your phones power saving mode. Most phones have a power saving mode in their operating system, and they save battery by limiting processing power. However, this could possibly mess with your game. The game itself has a power-saver mode, but it is known to cause issues for a lot of users, and should be avoided until a fix is announced.
  5. Disable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Having Wi-Fi enabled on your phone means it is constantly searching for access points, which significantly drains your battery. Disabling these features means your phone will give GPS priority, which will not only save power but also allow for a smoother game experience.
  6. Turn off the AR (augmented reality) setting when catching a Pokémon. The difference between the AR and non-AR view can be seen below. Augmented reality means your phone has to process more data and request more information constantly. Limiting the use of the 3D engine e will save a decent amount of data, and can also make the game easier to play in some situations. There are other minor actions you can take in-game to save power, such as minimizing the amount of actions you take in game (such as scrolling throughout the map and clicking on Pokestops).
    Augmented reality
    Source: life hacker
  7. Get an external battery pack or portable charger. With an external battery pack, all you have to do is plug your phone in with a USB charging cable, and you can play Pokémon Go until the early hours of the morning. These portable chargers can cost as little as $10 and digital trends has compiled a list of the top 30 portable phone chargers on the market. When charging your phone, make sure you put it in airplane mode if you aren’t planning on using it, as this will significantly speed up the charging process.
  8. Ensure your battery is at 100% before setting off on your journey. This one is a bit of a no brainer; a fully charged phone will last longer than a half-charged phone every time. If you leave with 100% charge, some of the steps above might not even be necessary.

Known issues with Pokémon GO

Despite its massive success, there are growing pains with game bugs and server congestion: after all, there are millions of people playing the game at any given time on the servers of a mobile game. Really, it’s amazing that the game is as good as it is. While different people experience some different  glitches, here is a list of the most common ones, with ways for you to counter them if available.

  1. The game not loading properly. This is probably the most common problem people have been having; either the screen says the servers are unavailable, or the bar at the bottom of the loading screen gets stuck about 1/3 of the way through. The former is due to a higher than expected number of people logging on to the game at any given point, which puts too much stress on the servers and they fail as a result. The latter is a bug that is expected to be fixed shortly, and can only be fixed by closing the app and re-trying to open it until it works. There is no guaranteed fix for either of these, so just be patient.
  2. The game freezing at certain points. Many people experience this at certain points. For some, the game freezes when challenging a local gym, others when they catch a rare Pokémon, or when they hatch an egg. The latter happened to me and it just disappeared, which was infuriating! Again, there is no real fix for these except to restart the app and punch a nearby pillow in frustration over the rare Pokémon you just missed out on. These glitches are also expected to be fixed soon.
  3. The lack of Pokémon in rural areas. While those who live in inner-city areas are catching Pokémon round the clock, thousands of users in rural areas have been complaining about the sheer lack of, well, anything in their vicinity. According to this post by a Reddit user, his town with a population of 1000 has just two Pokestops and not a single gym. This can make the game almost unplayable, and severely reduces the fun for those involved. Unfortunately, there may not be much that can be done about this, as the games geo-location services make it significantly easier to provide content to more populated areas.
  4. Inaccurate GPS location. A lot of users, particularly those who are indoors, often receive a message that says ‘GPS signal not found’. Since the game depends on your GPS location, it can’t be played without it. The developers are constantly working to improve their GPS accuracy and stability, but in the meantime, you can improve your signal strength by taking the following steps:
  • Ensure that the Pokémon GO app has location permissions enabled in settings
  • Ensure that you have some form of internet connectivity (either Wi-Fi or 4G)
  • Set your location/GPS to high-accuracy mode (this may use up more battery)
  • Move to a more suitable location, as the GPS sometimes doesn’t work indoors
  1. In-game purchases not showing up in your account. While some people think the game is stealing from them, in reality it just takes them a while to appear. Simply restarting the game will allow the Poke dollars to appear, allowing you to purchase to your heart’s content.
  2. Access to your Google account. While it is still unclear if this is actually true or not, it is possible that Niantic, the developer, may be able to view your Google emails. In making an account for the game, you need to sign in via Gmail, which inadvertently grants Niantic broad permissions over all information linked to the account. At no-point in the sign-in process does the app notify users about this, which is cause for controversy. This would allow them to read your emails, but there is no evidence that they are doing so. More on this can be found  here.

 

Despite its flaws, Pokémon Go is a truly innovative game, and will surely continue to have a massive impact on society as more and more people venture outside to capture their favourite creatures from their childhood. As someone who loved the Pokémon cartoons growing up, I always dreamt of how cool it would be to walk around capturing my own Pokémon in real life. Well now, that dream is a reality, and I can’t wait to see where the game goes from here.

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