July 14, 2016

Here’s The Fascinating Story Of John Hanke Behind The Invention Of Pokemon Go!

Last night, my girlfriend and I rushed into a shopping mall not to buy the things. We had gone there just to catch “Pikachu” as we got the information from the “POKEMON GO” that there is a Pikachu in the shopping mall. By this time, you may be knowing about the topic I am talking. It is all about the Nintendo’s new location-based augmented reality mobile game Pokémon GO. Pokemon is almost everywhere and Pokemon app is with almost everyone. Within the span of one week, all the android users became familiar with the Pokemon Go. Downloads of Huge Security loop that can get your account hacked on Pokemon GO crossed most of the famous apps like Twitter, Tinder etc. The average numbers using Facebook, WhatsApp, and Pokemon Go are almost same. The game has set a lot of craze in people and shares about this new app is at lightning speed.

John Hanke, CEO of Nintendo is the person behind the creation of this new app. His app got a huge success. But this is not the overnight success. It took around 20 hard years to create the game of our most loved cartoon network show during our childhood. Here is the journey of Pokemon Go from dream to reality.

pokemon go john

“Meridian 59” in 1996:

In 1996, while still a student, he created the very first MMO (massively multiplayer online game) called ‘Meridian 59’. 3DO, a gaming company bought this game from him.


“Key Hole” in 2000:

In 2000, John launched ‘Keyhole’, a software development company specializing in geospatial data visualization applications. It link maps with aerial photography, and create the first online, GPS-linked 3D aerial map of the world.

john hanke keyhole

“Google Earth” in 2004:

In 2004, Google bought Keyhole and turned it into Google Earth with the help of John. At that time, John decided to focus on creating GPS based games.

john hanke google earth

“Google Geo team” from 2004 to 2010:

From 2004 to 2010, he ran Google Earth team creating Google maps and Google street view. Meanwhile, he collected the team that would later create Pokemon Go.


“Niantic” in 2010:

In 2010, John launched Niantic Labs as a start-up funded by Google to create a game layer on maps.

John explains why he called it Niantic:

“The Niantic is the name of a whaling ship that came up during the gold rush and through a variety of circumstances got dragged on shore. This happened with other ships, too. Over the years, San Francisco was basically just built over these ships. You could stand on top of them now, and you wouldn’t know it.”


“Ingress” in 2012:

Niantic labs launched its first geo-based multiplayer game called “Ingress” in 2012. But to his surprise, it became a huge hit. That gave an inspiration to launch PokemonGo.

John explains about Ingress:

“In the case of Ingress the activity is layered on top of the real world and on your phone. The inspiration was that it was something that I always used to daydream about while I was commuting back and forth from home to Google.”


“Team up with Pokemon company” in 2014:

In 2014, Google and the Pokémon Company teamed up for an April Fools’ Day joke. A mini game which allowed viewers to find Pokémon creatures on Google maps to make fool was launched. This fake game went so viral. This lead John to think about turining this game into reality.



“$25 million fund from Google” in 2015:

John decided to build Pokémon. He allowed players of Ingress to create Poke stops at meeting points. Then he raised $25 million from Google, Nintendo, the Pokémon Company and other investors from Dec 2015 to Feb 2016.He formed a team with 40+ people.


John says:

The Pokéstops are submitted by users, so obviously they’re based on places people go. We had essentially two and a half years of people going to all the places where they thought they should be able to play Ingress, so it’s some pretty remote places.

Finally, John and his team launched Pokémon Go on July 6th in USA, Australia and New Zealand:

pokemon go logo

Niantic company created this new app not just for the sake of fun and entertaintment. Hanke says that they had three goals in their mind when building PokemonGo.

Goals Behind Building PokemonGo:

  • Exercise: A lot of fitness apps come with a lot of “baggage” that end up making you feel like “a failed Olympic athlete” when you’re just trying to get fit, Hanke says. “Pokemon Go” is designed to get you up and moving by promising you Pokemon as rewards, rather than placing pressure on you.
  • To see the world with new eyes:” The game is intended to “give you a little nudge” towards cool and interesting things in your neighborhood by turning real-life landmarks and historical sites into Pokestops and Gyms where players power up and battle. By encouraging exploration, “Pokemon Go” can “make your life better in some small way,” Hanke says.
  • Breaking the ice: All over the world, players are organizing “Pokemon Go” outings, cruising around their area and trawling for Pokemon. At higher levels, players need to team up with fellow players to conquer those Gyms. This is by design: Hanke describes “Pokemon Go” as an “icebreaker” that “gives people a reason to spend time together.”

Success won’t come in a single step. It takes long time. The story of John Hanke will become a great inspiration to many of the youngsters.

Also Read:

  1. Here’s how to download Pokemon Go for Android and iPhone.
  2. Huge Security loop that can get your account hacked on Pokemon GO.

About the author 

Imran Uddin

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