For most companies, April 1st is a less-than-ideal date in which to launch an app or a major update, as consumers, media and other interested parties might take it to be a prank. Google is not most companies.
The tech giant just released a mini-game in the update of its “Maps” application. Unlike most updates, this one incorporates a healthy dose of Pokémon. For those unfamiliar, Pokémon is a Nintendo-owned media franchise involving card games, video games, cartoons and movies that feature trainers capturing wild “Pokémon” creatures with special abilities. Once captured, they are trained to fight and pitted in battles against one another. At least that’s what I’m told.
Of course, Google is known for being quite a prankster, with a long list of similar April Fool’s Day pranks (seriously, a LONG list), however they have also peppered in a number of real releases on April 1, including Gmail. In fact, Gmail was thought to be a hoax, because at the time a free email service with a gigabyte of storage was an entirely new concept. Safe to say that one worked out pretty well.
So is this recent Pokémon update to Google’s Map application a hoax or the real deal? It seems a bit of both – at least we hope! The video promo they put together shows Poke-enthusiasts travelling the world, and “finding” Pokémon using an incredible looking augmented reality app within Google maps to capture their very own Pokémon. The video also promises any person that can capture all 150 Pokémon will have a chance to work at Google, with the title of “Pokémon Master”. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty good bet that these aspects are the hoax portion of their prank.
If you’re willing to take that chance in order to become a Pokémon Master, here’s how to get started:
To start becoming a Pokémon Master, go to your updated Google Maps app, tap the Search Bar, and then tap the Pokeball icon that says Start. You’ll be transported to Isla Santa Cruz, which is a remote cluster of islands, that are apparently teeming with Pokémon wildlife. You can then catch Pokémon by tapping them. There is a Pokedex you can fill with 150 different types of Pokémon, though I’m unsure what happens when you succeed.
Regardless of whether the feature will get pulled after April Fools (it’s hard to imagine running into Pokémon while searching for a hotel on vacation) it’s given users a new reason to check out Google Maps and all of its new features. For Google, I would suspect that it has led to a sizeable increase in usage over the last 24 hours. Everyone wins!
There is a lot of speculation as to whether or not Google is up to something bigger with this prank. Some have suggested a geo-caching project in the works, while others have mentioned some sort of augmented reality app. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Either way, it seems that Google has once again reminded the world that they remain the king of April Fool’s Day pranks.