We spoke to Pokémon Go director Alex Moffit and producer Chad Jones about the past, present and future of the mobile title at Summer Games Fest.
"We are at the Summer Game Fest Play Days and the beautiful spring-like, even though it's summer, Game Fest spring-like Niantic space which is full of leaves and flowers and colors and probably Pokémon hidden around the corner, right?So let's talk a little bit about Pokémon Go."
"The game has been running, we were saying, for seven years now.How do you guys keep people excited and how do you guys design the new features and stuff that are getting people back again and again to this game?I think I'll let Alex take that one."
"Yeah, happy to.I mean, it's no secret, this is the golden age of live services, forever games, and the best of the best ship awesome new gameplay at a consistent pace and they do so knowing what's the heart and soul of the game that their players love."
"For us, no secret, it's finding and catching Pokémon.So for us, it's always how can we stay true to that but maybe evolve it a little bit, keep things fresh, give people a new way of experiencing that same joy or reinventing it, improving it, things like that."
"So that's our MO when it comes to deciding on new features.And you have two specific new features coming in the near future.So what can you tell us about it?Well, so the feature that I've been working on the last year is called Routes, which is a new user-generated content feature that's coming to Pokémon GO where trainers are going to be able to record their favorite walks as paths within the game that will then be discoverable by trainers around the world who, when they walk them, they're going to not only get gameplay mechanics like buffs and boosts and finding Pokémon XP, etc., but they're also going to be able to follow in the footsteps of their fellow trainers and see things about the world that they may not have known existed, like having a tour guide of somebody local to the area, showing them the magic of hidden staircases or secret gardens or paths through the woods that they didn't know."
"Yeah, it's a feature that, because it's a free-form recorded path, we expect it's going to be something that applies to the strengths of rural communities by making things like nice trails or rail-to-trails or river walks or hikes accessible in the game and something that players can use to further their aims and catch Pokémon."
"That's what you expect. Have you tested this in real scenario?Have you seen people trying this out already?And what's sort of the results you're gathering from this?Yeah, we've been testing for the last few weeks."
"We've done some playtesting around the world.It's been received very, very well.We've been doing live demos all through SGF, so shame I haven't been able to take you out."
"Yeah, let's go, man.Hopefully the camera can move with us.Yeah, let's roll. This is Niantic.We like to do walking demos, so it's not a Niantic demo unless we're hitting the pavement."
"Okay, okay.And that's one feature that's coming, but I've heard there's something else that still unwraps, that is still not finalized yet, so what can you tell us about it?Yeah, happy to talk about that."
"The second feature we're calling PokéStop Showcases.So these are lightweight, local competitions you and your neighbors can enter into.So, as I talked about at the outset, what's the most important part of Pokémon GO?Finding and catching Pokémon."
"Second best part, though, is comparing what we got, right?And obviously, stats, shinies, we got all the usual stuff, but there's fun other quirky ways that people like to compare and contrast all the Pokémon we've come across."
"And so how showcases are going to work, you'll be walking around your everyday play, and all of a sudden, your local PokéStop might be hosting a showcase."
"So each showcase will have one Pokémon species that it's eligible for, and the competition's simple.Who's got the biggest? The bigger, the better.So, let's say maybe it's a Poochyena, maybe it's some other Pokémon."
"Drop it in there, right?See if yours is biggest, and then, you know, over time, these are short-duration competitions.See who has the biggest Poochyena."
"Once the competition ends, everybody gets some rewards.And if you're the top dog, introducing a new medal and badge, so you can actually progress that.There's some juicy rewards at the top that we're going to announce."
"And then, be on the lookout for more showcases.So, fun, lightweight.We know that everybody's doing this outside of the game with all your friends and family."
"So we're bringing a little of that good show-off spirit into the game itself.So that's showcases.It's a bit like fishing, but in a Pokémon way."
"So, we've said this has been running for seven years, and, you know, it, of course, had incredible peaks.And, of course, you monitor how the community is playing, how many millions are playing."
"So, how does that affect the way you design new features?Are you all the time looking at the successes or failure of previous features, or you just have your own roadmap of things that you want to add to the game?Because it's always like this, of course."
"For games going for so long.Yeah, I think the number one thing that we're starting to think about recently is staying true to what our creative promises are and ensuring that we make good on what we know the community loves about the game."
"And then, by talking internally, exploring various ideas, building on what we've done in the past, and listening to what people would really love to see, we find what's in alignment with and synergizes with our creative promises to set a roadmap in motion that really leans into why this property is differentiated amongst all the other Pokémon games."
"The fact that you get to actually live your fantasy of being out there in the real world as yourself, collecting Pokémon as though you were a real trainer, and finding features in the future that fit that."
"Right. Do you think we are going to meet here seven years from now, still talking about Pokémon GO?Do you think this is something possible?I mean, I think we've barely scratched the surface."
"I think this game has a lot of legs.I think that, frankly speaking, what can be done with a real-world type of game has yet to really be fully realized."
"We have a lot of really exciting things coming.A lot of legs. No pun intended.Wow, that's amazing. Thank you so much for your time.Looking forward to getting to know the new features coming to Pokémon GO."
"Cool. Appreciate it."