Apple has just announced a new iPhone and second-generation Apple Watch, but gaming fans had plenty more to be excited about at the company’s September Special Event. In addition to the news that Nintendo’s Super Mario would be coming to the App Store, the creators of worldwide phenomenon Pokémon GO were also on hand to announce an Apple Watch version of their popular game.
John Hanke, founder of Niantic, took the stage to give us some facts about his company’s wildly successful game. Since launch, Pokémon GO has been downloaded more than 500 million times – an App Store record by a significant margin – while players have walked a combined 4.6 billion kilometers in search of new and elusive Pokémon. That’s a frankly ridiculous number, especially when you consider that the app only reliably tracks your movements while its open and active.
The game involves traversing the real world in search of virtual creatures, which can be captured, trained and pitted against each other in battle. Sounds a little bleak, but it’s all in good fun. The Apple Watch app could be a huge help to players, helping them keep track of their virtual surroundings without having to wander around with their head buried in an iPhone. As Hanke puts its, the new app will allow you to “seamlessly blend Pokémon gameplay with your walk or run, while focusing on the cool stuff around you.”
More specifically, this means new watch face complications showing egg hatching progress, and the ability to collect items from Pokéstops (local points of interest) straight from the watch. The popular activity goals on the Apple Watch will integrate with the game, meaning you can load up a walk or run and be notified with a tap on the wrist when a Pokémon appears nearby. You’ll still have to whip your iPhone out to catch it, but it means Apple Watch users won’t miss out on spotting and catching Pokémon just because they want to keep their iPhone pocketed on a walk.
The watch app will be shipping before the end of the year, but if you can’t wait that long to get your wearable Pokémon fix, Niantic is releasing its own BlueTooth device – called Pokémon GO Plus – on September 16. It’s expected to cost around $35, and will offer similar wrist-based creature-catching action for those who don’t own an Apple Watch.