Pokémon Go started life as a Google Maps April Fools joke

If only all such pranks were capable of adding $9 billion to a company's worth

Jess Denham
Tuesday 12 July 2016 12:19 BST
Google Maps April Fools has turned into reality with Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go might be sweeping the globe as the hottest new gaming craze but it might just have started life as an April Fool’s joke.

Google’s annual prank two years ago involved integrating a ‘Pokemon Challenge’ into its widely-used Maps feature. The promotional video heard a developer introduce “the most rigourous test known to man to find the world’s best Pokémaster”. Footage saw gamers exploring the world’s toughest terrain to catch Pokémon, with gamers invited to use their smartphones to ‘see’ the fictional creatures.

Sounds fun but surely too silly, right? Wrong. John Hanke, CEO of Pokémon Go developers Niantic Labs, which was then still part of Google, decided that actually, this game could be a real success. Sure enough, the game has added a casual $9 billion to Nintendo’s value in just two days, and it hasn’t even been rolled out internationally yet.

However, as with most such revelations, there could well be more to this “joke” than first meets the eye. Niantic only broke free from Google last October, making it perfectly plausible that the 2014 video was a publicity stunt to test out early reactions to the game.

Clever move by Google or not, Pokémon Go is already a runaway hit. It is expected to be available for download in Europe later this summer but a release date has yet to be confirmed.

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