The Pokemon Company has announced it is developing Pokemon Sleep, a mobile app that tracks players' sleep and uses the data for gameplay, with a release date set for next year.
"We want to turn sleep into entertainment," said Tsunekazu Ishihara, chief executive of the Japanese company, which helps manage the Pokemon franchise, at a Tokyo event detailing the future of the company's business.
At the same event, Nintendo said it was developing a sleep-tracking successor to its Pokemon Go Plus device — which allows users to "catch" Pokemon without taking out their smartphones — specifically for Pokemon Sleep.
The device is called the Pokemon Go Plus + (pronounced "plus plus") and, when players are not out hunting for monsters it's designed to sit on their beds while they sleep. Incredibly this is not the first time such an idea has come from Nintendo, which in 2014 announced a sleep-tracking product that would monitor users and then project sleep statistics onto the roof so they could see them when they awoke. That idea was shelved in 2016.
Pokemon Sleep will use data points like how long the user slept and when they awoke, to change gameplay; though the Pokemon Company did not elaborate on how gameplay would change.
"Soon, Trainers will be able to wake up with Pokemon every morning with Pokemon Sleep", the company said in a release. "More details about the app’s functionality will be revealed at a later date".
The game is under development at quirky Japanese developer Select Button, which also made the Pokemon mobile game Magikarp Jump, and could help entrench Pokemon's appeal beyond core gamers and tap into a growing market for health-tracking services.
Augmented reality smartphone game Pokemon GO, developed by San Francisco-based Niantic, became a worldwide phenomenon after its launch in 2016 as players spilled out from living rooms onto the streets to hunt for Pokemon. Niantic has announced that, to celebrate the Pokemon Sleep announcement, a sleeping variant of the creature Snorlax will begin appearing in GO.
Elsewhere in smartphone Pokemon developments, Nintendo's app partner DeNA announced it was making a game called Pokemon Masters, which brings popular trainers from the history of the game franchise together for 3v3 pokemon duels.
Chinese partner NetEase also announced it would launch a local version of mobile game Pokemon Quest, and also said it aims to bring more Pokemon games to China. Nintendo is also working with China's Tencent to get its hybrid Switch game console released in the country.
The Pokemon Company was set up with investment from gaming companies Nintendo, Game Freak and Creatures. Spanning products including videos games, movies and soft toys, Pokemon is a home-grown contender for a Disney-style pop culture empire.
The first two Pokemon titles launched on the Nintendo Game Boy handheld console in 1996. Since then, the game series has sold more than 340 million units worldwide.
Nintendo has been trying to attract casual fans of Pokemon GO to the Switch games with two beginner-friendly Pokemon Let’s Go titles, which have sold more than 10 million copies as at the end of March.
It will release two fully fledged Pokemon titles for the Switch, Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield, in late 2019. While those new games were not detailed at the briefing, a Nintendo Direct broadcast devoted to the games is set for Thursday June 6. They are also expected to make up part of Nintendo's showing at next month's E3 games expo.
At the briefing, The Pokemon Company did announce a new service called Pokemon Home, which will be a multi-platform repository for players' monsters. It can hold creatures transfered from a Switch or 3DS system, or mobile apps, and can pass monsters to and from Sword and Shield.
Pokemon's global appeal is reflected in the success of movie Detective Pikachu. The move features the yellow Pikachu character — often the face of Pokemon — as a Sherlock Holmes-like crime-buster, complete with deerstalker.
Detective Pikachu is based on a game of the same name that was released for the Nintendo 3DS. At the briefing, the Pokemon Company said a Detective Pikachu game was in the works for the Switch.
Reuters, with staff reporters