Map quest 'Pokémon Go' readies for worldwide roll-out

In the year of its franchise's 20th anniversary, The Pokémon Company is preparing the ground for a staggered global release of "Pokémon GO," with Japan, Europe and North America the regions first up to receive the smartphone game.

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Speaking to Japanese daily broadsheet Yomiuri Shimbun, The Pokémon Company's president and CEO, Tsunekazu Ishihara, was able to provide some elaboration on launch plans for the roving mobile experience.

Though the Tokyo-based company is overseeing the new game, it's Niantic, recently spun-off from Google in August 2015, which is developing the project.

The San Francisco studio is best known for creating "Ingress," Google's location-based, sci-fi-themed augmented reality game which partnered with global corporations over naming deals and used player behavior to collect pedestrian routefinding data.

But this partnership with Nintendo is unusual for a number of reasons.

It's neither the first nor last to do so, but "Pokémon GO" makes good on an April Fool's prank called The Pokémon Challenge, which had Google Maps users looking for characters from the Pokémon franchise's bulging roster.

And, with Nintendo as one of three co-founders, it's part of a vanguard representing the console manufacturer's efforts to expand its entertainment experiences beyond own-brand hardware.

The Pokémon franchise itself started out in 1996, following the dual release of Game Boy sensations "Pokémon Red" and "Pokémon Blue," and the games' 20-year history are expected to be celebrated in a number of ways throughout 2016 -- not least through the release of "Pokémon GO."

Though both The Pokémon Company and Niantic have been coy on launch information for their joint project, "Pokémon GO" is now known to be scheduled for release in Japan, Europe and North America first, with South America, Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Middle East to follow.

Also courtesy of the Yomiuri Shimbun interview (via Pokémon specialist Serebii.net) is the news that TPC is "working on another big project away from Pokémon Go."

The last major additions to the Pokémon franchise were the handheld 3DS' "Pokémon X" and "Pokémon Y" in 2013, with 2014 providing remakes "Pokémon Omega Ruby" and "Alpha Sapphire."

"Pokémon Red" and "Pokémon Blue" are to be re-released as downloads for 3DS on the anniversary date of February 27, while fighting game spin-off "Pokkén Tournament" is scheduled for Wii U launch in March; Nintendo is expected to reveal its next console platform, codenamed NX, later in the year.



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