John Hanke: Creator of Pokémon GO

18

JULY, 2016

By JiaHer Teoh

For now, Pokémon GO is still a no go in Malaysia. An official statement from fortyseven.com – a Niantic representative – stated that “The team is currently heads down working on the game. We do not have any announced plans for countries beyond New Zealand, Australia, US and Germany at the moment.

Fret not, for there is still hope that you’ll be able to catch ‘em all soon. Word on the street suggests that Pokémon Go aims to be released worldwide by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, here’s a little background on John Hanke – the creator of Pokémon Go, the first MMO (Meridian 59) and Google Maps.

Cover of the PC game – Meridian 59

Back in 1996, John Hanke worked on what is often credited as the first graphical MMORPG – Meridian 59. Like augmented reality, massive multiplayer online games hadn’t really taken off and developers were still trying to understand what worked and what didn’t. Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs), an early foray into massive multiplayer gaming often constrained itself to being text-based. This breakthrough was built upon by many others, with World Of Warcraft (WOW) dominating today’s market.

Despite the exponential adoption of Pokémon GO, this might only be a spark in the explosion of augmented reality games in the near future.

In fact, Pokémon Go is only the second game to have been released by Niantic Labs. Their first, Ingress, was released in 2013 and garnered over 7 million players.

The functionalities of Ingress and Pokémon GO are similar, but Pokémon GO has a nostalgic allure for the 20 – 30 year olds who are thrown back to their Gameboy and Nintendo DS days.

Another similarity you might take for granted is that between the map on these two games and Google Maps. One might imagine that the similarity ends with the fact that an augmented reality game of this scale would of course have some working relationship with Google but the truth is much more.

Promotional graphic on the Ingress official website

© Niantic Inc.

© Niantic Inc.

Niantic Labs is formerly owned by Google and is still invested in by them. And it doesn’t end there. Founder and CEO of Niantic Labs, John Hanke, was also the founder and CEO of Keyhole, which was acquired by Google and had its flagship product renamed and developed into what we know as Google Earth. Google Maps, and Google Street View.

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