Anyone remember this ad from Google two years ago? It read: "Applicants must explore all types of terrain with Google Maps on their iPhone or Android to find each and every one of the wild Pokémon."
Google ran that ad back in 2014, and under normal circumstances, the assumption would be that the tech company was indeed working on an actual game that would allow people to use their iPhone or Android smartphone to catch an assortment of Pokémon in real-world locations. There was just one problem, though: that ad ran on April Fool's Day that year, meaning that everyone wrote it off as a prank.
Well, more than two years have passed since then, and as it turns out, Google's ad was no mere hoax — it was the precursor for the recently released Pokémon GO mobile game, which has players doing pretty much the same thing that was shown off in the ad.
For those who don't know, Pokémon GO uses a phone's camera and sensors, as well as location-based algorithms to place Pokémon in real-world locations and have players travel around in order to catch them. The premise has been a major hit so far, and the game quickly became the top-grossing app on the App Store in the United States, as well as holding the top position in the "Free" category, beating the likes of NBA LIVE Mobile and the Moments photo app, ever since it launched late last week.
With that said, don't be hasty in trying to accuse Niantic Labs of ripping off Google's idea. The original concept of the game, i.e., what can be seen in the advert, was the product of the collaboration between Nintendo, the Pokémon Company and Google — from which Niantic Labs was conceived as an internal startup. Furthermore, Google was a major investor in the production of the game (would it make any sense for Google to support a game based on its own stolen idea?).
So, yes, what everyone assumed was simply an April Fool's joke turned out to be one of this year's hottest releases. One can only imagine the dumb grins on the faces of those at Nintendo when the public learned of Pokémon GO back in 2015, when they themselves knew that the game had already been shown off in an earlier form just one year before.