How fascinating would it have been had an indie game developer created Pokémon Go? Then the world would be amazed not only by its popularity but also by the fact that an indie game developer developed it. But, the current scenario is different, as Pokémon Go is developed by Niantic, a small company with a strength of 11-50 employees, according to a Reddit post. Most importantly, they spun out of Google in 2015, in partnership with The Pokémon Company and Nintendo, to develop high-quality mobile apps.
The game popularity bug has also caught up with many developers, who are busy building Pokémon Go tools and API’s. One such developer, Jpain, has already started building Pokémon Go’s API and is streaming the whole development process on Livecoding.tv.
Niantic clearly had the skills to develop Pokémon Go, as they had developed a very similar game, Ingress, in 2013. But the real question is, could an indie game developer have created Pokémon Go? If so, then how? Let’s go through all the possibilities.
The Technology Behind Pokémon Go
To answer the question, we first need to understand the technology used in developing Pokémon Go. Pokémon Go heavily uses augmented reality. At the core, augmented reality works seamlessly with smartphone GPS and clock. The seamless connection ensures that you will only find water Pokémons around bodies of water such as a pond, river, etc. The pattern will be replicated for other types of Pokémons present within the game. Ingress also utilizes the mix of augmented and geolocation technology.
Other key technologies used in Pokémon Go depend on the platform for which the game is being developed. For example, the Android version requires Java, whereas the iOS version requires Swift programming language.
For an indie game developer, the first challenge is to work with the augmented reality. Augmented reality is not an easy trade to learn and work on. In addition, the indie game developer needs to have a good working knowledge of design, image processing, and other specific technologies related to the platform for which it is developed. Pokémon Go uses geolocation technology, and the developer also needs to be good at that. Oh yes, the indie game developer should also have some working knowledge about cloud computing.
If an indie game developer has the skills mentioned above, he could easily start developing the simple concept of Pokémon Go.
The Simple Concept of Pokémon Go
Pokémon Go is a relatively simple game. The player creates an avatar, moves the avatar in real-life, using GPS, and catches Pokémons along the way. The game also creates special locations on the map for the different functionality of the game, such as PokéStops and Pokémon gyms.
Simple, right? Not really. The concept might be simple, but it takes time, money, and effort to implement. For an indie game developer, resource management is critical. And that leads to yet another problem. How can an indie game developer serve millions of players at the same time? For an indie game developer that can be an impossible task, leading to hiring a team, which could not be an initial option.
But, if you stick out the huge player base of Pokémon Go, and only concentrate on the game mechanics of the game, there are higher chances that it can be developed by a competent indie game developer. Later on, the indie game developer has to hire marketing and PR guys to make the transition to the market. The funding has to come either from the developer’s own pocket or the game needs to be funded. Another problem to tackle after the release is maintaining servers for best possible user experience.
Currently, Niantic is failing to keep up the servers. They are also failing to communicate. And in addition to the company failing miserably at communicating server down issues, they are also not working actively to solve the problems. A real challenge, indeed. Developing a Pokémon Go game is not an easy task, as can be easily inferred by the current condition of Niantic and Nintendo in handling all the bugs, server crashes, and bad PR.
Limitation of Developing Pokémon Go by an Indie Game Developer
Developing an augmented reality game is a challenge. It requires skill and knowledge about the trade. There are also other limitations. For example, an indie game developer like Daniel Noel-Davies from London cannot develop Pokémon Go, as it is a registered IP under Nintendo. Permission to develop the game will cost the indie game developer millions of dollars. In any case, why would Nintendo give the game developer the game license, when they can hire a team full of equally-skilled developers. Another limitation is the maintenance aspect of the game. Servers need maintenance from scratch, adding cost to the project.
Marketing the app is not a big issue, as Pokémon is extremely popular by itself. The fan base is already there, and a small push from the marketing team can lead it into the hands of the millions of new players.
Should You Build Something Similar To Pokémon Go?
Augmented Reality (AR) is an intriguing prospect for the game industry. The potential is huge, and the industry experts are expecting revenues to hit as high as $150 billion by 2020, according to Digi-Capital. Pokémon Go has already started a revolution, which was on the cards for many years. The combination of AR and the Pokémon brand has surely made the path easier for Niantic to cash in, and we can see the results in front of our eyes (expect the disaster of maintaining the servers to rise and continued bad PR).
A better approach should be to learn from other games, and create a new game. Maybe “Monster Go” is just around the corner, where you can catch different monsters from an entirely different world. The AR industry is booming, and it is a good idea to develop games in Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality.
Indie game development is not for the faint-hearted, according to Rolling Stone’s Patrick Stafford. It requires skill, the hunger to succeed, and the ability to take the risk. Resource management is crucial for any indie game developer. With open tools out there, it is now the best time to become an indie game developer and conquer the world. Pokémon Go is a great example of how a simple AR game can capture the market.
The possibility of Pokémon Go being built by an indie game developer was always there, but to do that, many hindrances needed to be overcome. With Pokémon Go already out in the market, it is a good idea to invest time in creating something unique and noteworthy. Indie game developers can market their apps and games by broadcasting the development on Livecoding. There are many benefits of broadcasting live, including feedback from other game developers, collaborating, and also creating an audience for the upcoming game.
What the indie game developer can do is to build similar AR games, and capture the market with story and narration, which is what the Pokémon Go lacks. Another excellent example of a successful AR game is Zombie’s Run! which brings in considerable AR experience with great narration and story-based gameplay.
So, what you think about the prospects of Pokémon Go being developed by an indie game developer? Is it possible to develop the game by an individual? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment.