Pokémon Go is a 2016 augmented reality (AR) mobile game developed and published by Niantic in collaboration with The Pokémon Company for iOS and Android devices. A part of the Pokémon franchise, the game is the result of a collaboration between Niantic, Nintendo and The Pokémon Company. It uses the mobile device GPS to locate, capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, which appear as if they are in the player's real-world location. The game is free to play; it uses a freemium business model and supports in-app purchases for additional in-game items. The game launched with around 150 species of Pokémon, which had increased to around 600 by 2020.
Pokémon Go was released to mixed reviews; critics praised the concept, but criticized technical problems. It was one of the most used and profitable mobile apps in 2016, having been downloaded more than 500 million times worldwide by the end of the year. It is credited with popularizing location-based and AR technology, promoting physical activity, and helping local businesses grow due to increased foot traffic. However, it attracted controversy for contributing to accidents and creating public nuisances. Various governments expressed concerns about security, and some countries regulate its use. By early 2019, the game had over a billion global downloads and grossed over $3 billion in revenue. The game also had over 147 million monthly active users as of May 2018.
After establishing a game account, players create and customize their own avatars. Once created, an avatar is displayed on a map based on the player's geographical location. Features on the map include 'PokéStops' and 'Pokémon Gyms'. These PokéStops can be equipped with items called 'Lure Modules', which attract additional wild, and occasionally rare, Pokémon. Gyms serve as battle locations for team-based king of the hill matches. PokéStops and Gyms are typically located at places of interest. These locations are re-purposed portals from Ingress, Niantic's previous augmented reality (AR) game. This has led to PokéStops and Pokémon Gyms being placed at dangerous or inconvenient locations, such as a now-deleted Gym at the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
As players move within their real world surroundings, their avatars move within the game's map. Different Pokémon species reside in different areas of the world; for example, Water-type Pokémon are generally found near water. When a player encounters a Pokémon, it may be viewed either in AR mode or with a live rendered, generic background. If you flee, the Pokemon will face the last spot you were going it catch it in, except Nosepass, which will always face north because of its Pokedex entry. AR mode uses the camera and gyroscope on the player's mobile device to display an image of a Pokémon as though it were in the real world. Players can take screenshots of the Pokémon they encounter either with or without the AR mode activated.
Unlike other installments in the Pokémon series, players in Pokémon Go do not battle wild Pokémon to catch them. During an encounter with a wild Pokémon, a player may throw a Poké Ball at it by flicking it from the bottom of the screen up toward the Pokémon. If the Pokémon is successfully caught, it will come under the ownership of the player. Factors in the success rate of catching a Pokémon include the Pokémon's catch rate, the timing and the type of Poké Ball used. After catching a wild Pokémon, the player is awarded two types of in-game currencies: Candies and Stardust. The Candies awarded by a successful catch depend on what evolutionary chain a Pokémon belongs to. A player can use Stardust and Candies to raise a Pokémon's "Combat Power" (CP). However, only Candies are needed to evolve a Pokémon. Each Pokémon evolution tree has its own type of Candy, which can only be used to evolve or level up. The maximum level a player can achieve is level 40. The player can also transfer the Pokémon back to the Pokémon Professor Willow to earn one more Candy and create room for more Pokémon. Shiny Pokémon are available through multiple ways, mostly by Community Days or chance. The ultimate goal of the game is to complete the entries in the Pokédex, a comprehensive Pokémon logbook, by catching and evolving them to collect every one in it.[note 2]
Although the game is free to play, it supports in-app purchases, where players can purchase additional Poké Balls and other in-game items. These items include Incense (which attract Pokémon to you as you move for thirty minutes), Lure Modules, which you have to use at PokéStops to attract Pokémon to your current location near the PokeStop, and Lucky Eggs, which double experience points gained for a thirty-minute period from use. All Pokémon are displayed with a Combat Power, which is a rough measure of how powerful that Pokémon is in battle. Generally, as players level up, they catch Pokémon with higher CP and Pokémon are somewhat harder to catch. The player can check how strong their Pokémon are by the "Appraisal" system.
Players earn experience points for various in-game activities. Players rise in level as they earn experience points (XP), with various features being progressively unlocked. Most notably, at level five, the player can battle at a Pokémon Gym and join one of three color-coded teams (red for Team Valor, blue for Team Mystic, or yellow for Team Instinct), which act as factions battling for control of Gyms within the Pokémon Go world.
In September 2016, Niantic introduced a "Buddy Pokémon" feature, which allows players to pick a Pokémon to appear alongside them on the profile screen, and receive in-game rewards and bonuses based on the chosen Pokémon. The feature was released later that month. Certain Pokémon have different distances that they need to be walked in order to receive candy. The more the player walks in real time, the more candy they can earn. During the same update, Niantic made it impossible for players with rooted or jailbroken devices to log into the game in an effort to reduce and prevent cheating.
In June 2017, Niantic announced that the game mechanics of Gyms would be revamped for a more teamwork-oriented experience; Gyms were disabled on June 19, 2017, with the new Gyms being released with the next app update a few days later. As of the update, Gyms included a spinnable component to receive in-game items such as Potions and Poké Balls. Additionally, Gyms are capped at containing six Pokémon, each of which must be unique in that Gym. Coins are now earned based on the amount of time the defending Pokémon has been in a Gym, as opposed to a one-per-day gym defender bonus of 10 coins per current defending Pokémon. Legendary, Mythical and Buddy Pokemon can't be placed in Gyms due to the Legendary and Mythical Pokemon being too powerful and the Buddy Pokemon being beside the player's avatar.
In July 2017, Raid Battles were introduced. Raid Battles consist of a group of players gathering to confront an over-leveled Pokémon located in a Gym. If the Pokémon is defeated, the players gain the chance to catch a regular version of it. Raid difficulties range from 1 to 5, with 1 being of the lowest difficulty, and 5 being the most difficult to defeat. Level 5 raids are exclusive to Legendary Pokémon. The first of these, Articuno and Lugia, were released on July 22, 2017, after the Go Fest, with Moltres and Zapdos following. From September to November, the 3 Legendary Beasts: Entei, Raikou and Suicune, were released shortly after, rotating regions every month. Following their departure, the Legendary Pokémon Ho-Oh appeared in Raid Battles from November 27, 2017, to December 12, 2017.
After the December 2017 update, Niantic released 50 Pokémon originally discovered in the Hoenn region. In December 2017, the first Legendary Pokémon from Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, Groudon, was released. In January, Kyogre was released. In February, the last Pokémon of the 'Weather Trio', Rayquaza, was released alongside the latest batch of Hoenn Pokémon.
In January 2018, Pokémon Go held the first Community Day, a new monthly feature that would increase the appearance rate of a specific Pokémon and offer an exclusive move only available to Pokémon caught or evolved during the Community Day window. The player can also catch Shiny Pokemon easily than by chance. The first Community Day was on January 20 and featured Pikachu.
In the March 2018 update, Niantic added a quest system which could be completed to obtain special or mythical Pokémon such as Mew or Spiritomb. This has been done for every Mythical Pokemon to date.
In May 2018 Niantic announced the addition of Alolan variant Pokémon first featured in Pokémon Sun and Moon.
In October 2018, the arrival of Pokémon originally found in the Sinnoh region of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl was announced along with a new item being the Sinnoh Stone, which could evolve certain Pokemon, most of them being final evolutions introduced in Pokemon Diamond, Pearl and Platinum.
In November 2018, coinciding with the release of Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee! on the Nintendo Switch, Pokémon Go introduced the new Mythical Pokémon Meltan originally as a teaser, later to be available to capture only in Pokémon Go via a "Mystery Box" item that could be obtained through transferring Pokémon from Pokémon Go to either Nintendo Switch Pokémon games, or by completing new Research Tasks. In December, Niantic added player vs player Trainer Battles.
In July 2019, Pokémon Go introduced Team GO Rocket battles. Team GO Rocket NPCs could be battled at PokéStops indicated with it twitching and being a dark color. After victory, the player has the opportunity to capture and purify a "Shadow Pokémon" which are weak, angry-looking Pokemon. Purified Pokémon are more powerful than their normal counterparts and can learn an exclusive move when purified.
In September 2019, Pokémon first introduced in the Unova region of Pokémon Black and White were added to Pokémon Go along with a Unova Stone which can evolve certain Pokemon.