How to make an MMO like Pokémon Go

Since its July release, Pokémon Go has proven to be an effective exercise app, foot traffic generator for small businesses, booster of workplace productivity, and even an effective sales tool.

It’s also been a very lucrative source of revenue for developer Niantic Labs – the game earned $200 million USD in its first month of release alone.

So while Pokémon Go’s unprecedented popularity (and the media furor surrounding it) might already be on the wane, the key lesson that businesses can learn from Niantic remains: namely, that the right mobile platform can make them very, very rich.

Perhaps your company has an idea for a mobile game of its own, in which case we have good news for you: Pokémon Go was developed with off-the-shelf elements that are readily available for your programmers to use.

In a July 7 blog post on software review platform G2 Crowd, author Levi Olmstead breaks down five of them:

  • Google App Engine, the platform as a service (PaaS) behind Rovio’s popular Angry Birds in addition to Pokémon Go.
  • A former Google Inc. subsidiary, Niantic also uses Google Cloud Datastore’ NoSQL database to save and index the game’s data.
  • The game’s code uses open-source application framework libGDX, with Java, C++, and C# as the programming languages.
  • And it uses the Unity game engine, which has powered both indie games such as Gone Home and Dreamfall Chapters and major mobile releases such as Mobius Final Fantasy to build its massive multiplayer online (MMO) world from real-life maps.
  • The company also uses Google Analytics to measure how well Pokémon Go is performing with its users.

Other technologies utilized by Niantic included smartphone cameras, which allowed the company to add augmented reality features, and GPS trackers on iPhone and Android devices, which allow the game to map and follow player movement in real time, Olmstead wrote.

And while these elements no doubt require a creative hand to guide them as well, their successful – financially and otherwise – application to Pokémon Go indicates we haven’t seen the last of them.

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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