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Pokemon Go CEO vows more top-requested features coming

I saw CEO John Hanke of Niantic, maker of Pokemon Go, and all I got were two lousy Pidgeys and no details about what to expect this year.


Pokemon Go, last year's mobile gaming hit, will add more top-requested features later this year. Just don't expect Niantic's CEO to reveal what they are yet.

After widening the game with 80 new characters and four new features last month, Pokemon Go plans to add "some other features people have been asking about later this year," John Hanke, CEO of Niantic and creator of Pokemon Go, said Thursday at the SXSW Conference and Festivals in Austin.


John Hanke, founder and CEO of Niantic and creator of Pokemon Go, discussed augmented reality at SXSW. Here, he talks on stage at Mobile World Congress.

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Pokemon Go was a breakaway hit last year, with its little monsters popping up on your phone's camera. The game helped popularize augmented reality, a tech that overlays digital info on top of the real world.

While it remains a popular game, the buzz over Pokemon Go -- which had everyone from policemen to schoolchildren walking around hunting for digital creatures -- has fizzled. Once a top download in Apple's App Store, it has now fallen out of the top 100 apps.

Niantic did finally address one of the most requested features last month by introducing the ability to trade Pokemon with other players. The most popular request, however, has been for players to battle each other with their Pokemon. The game only lets you go to local "gyms" where you battle a designated player.

On a panel discussing how AR can play a role in urban revitalization, Hanke didn't provide any other details about what's in the Pokemon pipeline. But he did say Niantic will be launching some "other projects we're not quite ready to talk about."

Answering questions about tension that Pokemon Go caused when avid players would show up at solemn landmarks hunting down Jigglypuffs, Hanke said the company -- and pretty much everyone -- was caught off-guard by the game's runaway popularity. Niantic has learned how to discuss and compromise with businesses, individuals and institutions that object to having Pokestops on their doorstep.

Niantic has also struck deals with companies like Sprint to turn its retail stores into gyms and Pokestops. The hope is dedicated players will drop into those stores for powerups and challenges.

Hanke said two goals of the game were to foster awareness of historical and cultural landmarks that might go unnoticed, as well as to use tech to encourage people to get outside walking.

"The city belongs to everybody," he said, adding that getting young people outdoors is a great thing. "That has to be balanced with the interests of other users."

(OK, I lied. In addition to my two Pidgeys, I caught a Rattata and a Murkrow too.)

First published at 12:37 p.m. PT.
Update, 12:50 p.m. PT: To include additional background.

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