Ever since its release back in 2016, Pokémon GO is a mobile game based on a legendary Japanese franchise that has caused a frenzy amongst Singaporeans, all ages alike.
Starting out with only the first generation of Pokémon, the game has since expanded to include the Johto (Gen 2, 1999-2002), Hoenn (Gen 3, 2003) and Sinnoh (Gen 4, 2005-2006), along with new mechanics to the game such as trading and Player versus Player (PVP).
Now, Pokémon GO players have an extra reason to be excited. Niantic, creators of the game, announced an event that will take place in Sentosa – Pokémon GO Safari Zone. Players going to the event will have chances to encounter and catch rare Pokémon such as Tropius (native to the Africa region), Unown, and Shiny Shuckle, an experience akin to the Safari Zone featured in the main games. With that said, remember to bring your power banks and pack your sunscreens!
The Safari Zone event is the first of its kind in Southeast Asia, with about 100,000 Singaporeans expected to roam the Safari Zone area across the five-day event from 18 April to 22 April 2019. In Singapore, the Safari Zone area stretches from Sentosa Boardwalk to Tanjong Beach (about 2.4km).
Besides catching Pokémon, players can also interact with Pikachu mascots – positioned at two points throughout the journey – and purchase merchandise from their pop-up stores. The merchandise varies from apparels with Pokémon prints to Pikachu soft toys.
Also, a six-metre tall inflatable Lapras would present good photo opportunities.
To be eligible to participate in the event, you must have registered prior to the event on the official site from 5 March to 7 March 2019 in order to obtain a ticket. For those who have received a confirmation e-mail on 11 March, there will be two check-in areas located at Resort World Sentosa and another at Palawan Green.
Players should register their QR codes at these check-in areas to gain access to the exclusive Safari Zone Pokémon. Those without a ticket to the event still can play Pokémon GO in the area; although they will not encounter these special Pokémon exclusive to the Safari Zone event.
We had a chat with Hikaru (Ray) Adachi, Senior Director of Product Marketing for Niantic in the APAC region:
1. Was it hard for the company to adapt its mechanics for the Safari Zone to the real world for this event?
Ray: Turning virtual reality mechanics to the real world is something that we have been doing so that is not necessarily very difficult for us. But, it obviously requires a high level of ability to execute; it is difficult and extremely time-consuming to craft from scratch a new area and a new location.
2. Niantic developed the Trading and PvP battles in 2018. What other enhancements can fans expect in the future?
Ray: Good question, I want to know this too! Obviously, we cannot disclose future project on our hands, but, if you take a look at Pokémon GO’s history, we started the game as simply catching and collecting Pokémon.
Now, you can battle your friends with PvP battles and trade with other players; so you can say we have been developing towards a slightly different direction from how it started.
(With) Pokémon GO, we want our players to walk around and (stay) healthy by playing our game. By battling with other friends or players, you can always make some new friends around the area and that’s how you can make new connections with people – real people!
3. What are the challenges faced when it comes to creating AR content like GO Snapshot?
Ray: That is a very technical question! But Augmented Reality (AR) functions are the very core of what our company does. We really think about new world platforms and combining the real world in with our virtual world. I would like to emphasise that GO Snapshot was derived from user feedback. We actually think of how to maximise user experience and that is the core of what our company thinks about.
So when we had this photo function, people were (very enthusiastic) to take photos everywhere on their social media. (Before) GO Snapshot, people had to take an “AR” photo right on the spot; so if you are not on the beach but you’d like to take a picture of a Lapras on the beach, it is (not possible). We saw how users tried their best to take a good picture with their limitations.
Ray: With this new GO Snapshot function, you can take photos with your favourite Pokémon anytime and anywhere; you can take a picture with the Lapras by the ocean with the actual ocean as the background.
So, the way we conceptualise and produce our products is (by) listening to user feedback and we look at what they are doing before we try enhancing our product.
4. Many fans were ecstatic at the introduction of the monthly ‘Community Day’ — opening up rarer Pokémon’s for players to catch. What was the inspiration behind this feature?
Ray: We wanted more interaction between players; families to go out together to play the game or for players to play the game with their fellow friends – maybe make new friends. That is the intention of the Community Day. So it goes back to our principle of getting people to explore and make new friends; go out to the real world socially. Obviously you cannot join community day at home.
We do a lot of brainstorms internally to come up with new ideas so it is a combination of user feedback and our team’s creative juices.
5. Having to keep your GPS on for the game will significantly decrease one’s battery life and increase data usage. Are there measures taken to decrease the game’s battery and data consumption?
Ray: The most recent measure would be Adventure Sync. In the past, in order to hatch your eggs or to get items, you needed to keep Pokémon GO open and it would drain your battery. What Adventure Sync has done is revolutionary: you can close your app and it will use your data to count your steps count the distances covered while the Pokémon GO app is not open. You can even hatch the egg without opening the app.
6. While there was worldwide buzz over Pokémon GO, there were criticisms of players playing the game at inappropriate locations — while driving or even at memorials. Are there measures Niantic have taken to prevent such unsavoury episodes from occurring?
Ray: Player safety is the most important thing for us in creating Pokémon Go. We are aware of the criticisms from the beginning so we have strived to make improvements since then. Now you’d notice when you are driving, you won’t be able to play Pokémon Go anymore; at a certain speed, you won’t be able to play the game.
You will also be asked frequently whether you are driving. We have also been strongly advising our players not to walk around with their phones to play the game. PokéStops are no longer found in sensitive areas as well; the gyms and PokéStops are now in safer locations.
Pokémon GO Safari Zone event
Date: 18 April to 22 April 2019
Time: 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM
Venue: From Sentosa Boardwalk to Tanjong Beach
For more information, please visit https://www.sentosa.com.sg/pokemon
Photos by Soloman Soh of the DANAMIC team.