Yesterday, UCLA held a Q&A panel about Augmented Reality Games with Raza Ahmad, a member of the Niantic creative team. Raza is a UCLA Alumni, working as a Creative Designer on Pokemon GO. The panel was a part of UCLA’s FuturizeX initiative that brings together members of UCLA community.

Raza shared some interesting info on the future of Pokemon GO and their overall opinion on the current state of the game and future updates. Albeit some of his answers were vague on purpose, we did manage to get quite a bit of info on the upcoming gym changes.

Here are the quick bits and you can read the full interview below:

  • Pokemon GO is not yet fully released
    • “Page one of chapter one”
  • Gym re-balancing is in the works
  • Real world events for Pokemon are in the works
  • 3rd party trackers suspension is aligned to their vision of Pokemon and exploration
    • Avoided to comment whether that includes the new tracker or not

We would take this opportunity to thank Jwdarrenloh, a redditor who shared the entire transcript of the interview. The interview is below the picture, but we warn you – it is lengthy!

Raza Ahmad, UCLA image
Raza Ahmad, UCLA image

Q&A panel with Raza Ahmad, Niantic

Q: What does the rampant popularity of this game tell us about the future of mobile entertainment and media?

That’s a huge question, but at the most basic level I think this has to do with how we relate to each other and to technology…. There are ways that technology separates us both from the world and each other, and there are ways it brings us together and connects us back to the world. The success of both Ingress and Pokémon GO are an affirmation that people have an appetite to get out there and really be within their neighborhoods and cities, and that they have a desire to be part of communities that engage in real, meaningful and positive ways. The technology might be new, but the instincts here are not. I think experiences like Ingress and Pokémon GO are empowering and enriching these desires that were already there.

Q: What (if anything) surprised you about the response to “Pokémon GO?

The scale definitely caught me off guard. I was cautiously optimistic when we launched. Real world gaming is a really new thing — and it’s not easy…. It’s much easier to pull open your phone and spend five minutes on a match 3 game or something than to get on your walking shoes and go outside. That’s a big ask. We knew from Ingress that when people took that first step, there are things in this experience that they would love, but I personally at least didn’t know that as many people would be willing to take that first step as actually happened.

Q: What’s next for you at Niantic Labs (or beyond)?

This is the beginning of something. We are developing something new, not just technologically but in terms of exploring a new medium for story and game and social experience. We’ve been successful with Ingress, and more so with Pokémon GO, but we’re just scratching the surface of what real world games and augmented reality can ultimately be. The technology is just starting to emerge, and it’s only going to get better. Our creative strategies evolve as we learn. My hope is that this will become a really vibrant space, with lots of different kinds of games and storytelling experiences going on inside it. It’s going to be challenging and interesting — lots of opportunities to explore and obstacles to solve and surmount.

Q: What’s next for Pokemon GO?

Pokemon GO is in the very beginning of what you will see in the fullness of time. This is page one of chapter one. It’s not even fully released! (Funny how they acknowledge this) We’re still trying to adapt to the needs of our player base, and we’re trying to adhere to the vision of how to build a community game based on the principles of Augmented Reality.

Q: You’ve hosted amazing community events in Ingress, don’t you find it interesting how Pokemon Go doesn’t mirror that? 

If you look at the most recent interview with John Hanke, he definitely hints at our intention to do future community events – like anomalies in Ingress with Pokemon Go. We’re aware of the power community has with AR related games but we want to do them right, not the lazy way. Don’t worry. Real world events for Pokemon are definitely in the works.

Q: With the suspension of 3rd party trackers, is Niantic planning on on releasing one of its own anytime soon?

Well, I’m not in the development team so I can’t comment on our content release schedule. But what I can say is our intent with Pokemon is aligned to our vision of community exploration, and that won’t be going away anytime soon. Whether that includes a full tracker or not at this point I can’t say.

Q: Is gym re-balancing in the works?

Most certainly! You’ve already had a taste of that with the recent update. Like I said earlier though, I’m not in development so I can’t say much beyond that.