The following comes from a Famitsu interview with Setsuto Murai, representative president of Niantic Japan and Kento Suga, marketing manager of Niantic Japan.
Famitsu: I think with the practical use of location information, Ingress became a game that gives birth to a whole new genre. Like with Ingress, Pokemon GO, which will also practically use position information, has been announced to be developed by Niantic. How did this project come to be realized?
Murai: We’ve touched about it briefly before (when talking about Ingress), but before we went independent, we were a group in charge of [handling] Google Maps in Google. Do you remember that we had a “Pokemon Challenge” for April Fools in 2014?
Famitsu: Yes. It’s when the ability to search for Pokemon appearing in Google Maps, and you could get Pokemon on the map. I see, so that’s where you became acquainted.
Murai: Yes. That Pokemon Challenge was a chance for us to be able to build relations with people at Pokemon, and then (Pokemon) president (Tsunekazu) Ishihara and John (Hanke, CEO of Niantic) were able to meet and talk. At that time both of their thoughts and visions were also very close, and as a union of their spirit, the talk became “Let’s do something together in the future”.
Famitsu: So what about the chance meeting for Pokemon Challenge itself? I remember it was a very surprising collaboration between Google and Pokemon.
Murai: In Google, there’s a culture where the staff release ideas for April Fools, then they make their own teams to realize those. But for Pokemon Challenge, it was a staff member named Tatsuo Nojima who pulled out that idea, and he became the center of the development.