Niantic: Pokémon Go healthy and growing as it approaches its next decade

March 29, 2024
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How much does someone who built the foundations of Pokémon Go still play the game, eight years on? It’s the first question I ask Ed Wu, senior vice president of Pokémon Go, as we set off on a walk together around a leafy London park – our phones in hand, Pokémon Go open. “I spend as much of my time beating up the game as possible,” he laughs. This is often using work-in-progress beta builds, he admits, to ensure upcoming features are bug-tested. But he still plays his “official” main account when he can – and it’s clearly a source of pride that his was the first ever user account – or one of the first, he can’t quite recall – registered on Pokémon Go’s live server back at launch in the summer of 2016.

“It’s bananas to think this thing is going to be going into its next decade soon,” Wu says. He’ll hit a decade working at Niantic even sooner – when he began coding the building blocks of Pokémon Go from an office in Washington, as Niantic scrambled to stay in business. It’s fair to say Pokémon Go did the job.

“It’s not only healthy, but it’s growing,” Wu says of the game now. “And we’re putting a lot of investment into ensuring it’s a great game and has really firm foundations for the next 10 years.” Indeed, Pokémon Go’s most recent major update has been a major visual refresh to its overworld and encounter screens, where your real-world location and time of day are far better reflected. If you’re standing in the countryside, you’ll catch Pokémon surrounded by fields and trees. In the city, you’ll be around skyscrapers. As we circle a lake in the centre of the park together, its watery backdrop is reflected on our phones as we catch. Wu can’t help but stop and point it out.

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