Niantic has discussed how their partnership with Nintendo and The Pokémon Company came to be, the result being Pokémon GO which is scheduled to release on iOS and Android devices next year.
It was The Pokémon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara that had “ushered” the developer to Nintendo’s attention, which saw late president Satoru Iwata recognise the relevancy that the mobile market would have on their future.
“It was driven in large part by Mr. Ishihara and The Pokémon Company,” Niantic CEO John Hanke shared with VentureBeat. “They’ve been involved in developing all the Pokémon games through the years. They guide the IP. But a lot of what they do is through partnerships. They partnered initially with Wizards of the Coast to bring out the Pokémon card game, which has now sold something like 21 billion cards. They have animation partners who do the TV show. They’re a partnering type of company. Mr. Ishihara ushered us into the halls at Nintendo.”
He continued, “The former CEO of Nintendo, Mr. Iwata, had his hand on the wheel. He was steering Nintendo in a new direction. Part of that was the partnership with DeNA, the mobile game company. They have new hardware in the pipeline that they’ve been working on. He saw the need and personally wanted to help evolve Nintendo. They resisted mobile for a long time. But it’s clear their relationships with us and with DeNA that they now understand how relevant it is to the future.
“Mr. Ishihara is now a very high-level Ingress player. His wife is an Ingress player. Both of them were higher-level than me when I first met them. It was great to work with a partner that got it from the beginning. They saw Ingress as a perfect match for Pokémon. We were practically finishing each other’s sentences. Ingress, you conquer portals. Pokemon, obviously, you’d go out into the real world and find Pokemon and battle them against other players and trade them and go to gyms. That’s how it’s going to work. Let’s do it.
“It wasn’t totally accidental. Google had worked with Pokémon on a Google Maps mashup for April Fool’s three years ago. We had some experience building a mini-product with them. We actually used the same company to do the launch video for Pokémon Go as worked on the April Fool’s video.”