Illustration for article titled You Can Thank an April Fools Joke for Bringing You Pokemon Go

Everyone who spent the past week in the throes of Pokemon Go has an April Fool’s joke to thank—or blame, depending on whether you were robbed—for the phenomena.


Two years ago, Google’s annual April Fool’s joke was a Pokemon challenge integration with Google Maps. In its promotional video, a man claims that “using the technology created by the Google Maps team, we’ve prepared the most rigorous test known to man to find the world’s best Pokemaster.”

It was fun, it was cute—and it sparked an idea for John Hanke. Hanke is the CEO of Niantic Labs, which developed Pokemon Go and was then still a part of Google. Hanke, having already created the location-based game Ingress with Niantic, thought the concept could be more than a joke and ended up asking the company’s director of Asia Pacific whether the Pokemon idea “could be done in the real world.” I think we know the answer here.


A year later, the company was spun off from Google, and after only a few days Pokemon Go is bigger than Tinder on Android. It’s actually astonishing how we’ve reached the point that a prank—meant to trick gullible people into thinking the unlikely is real—can became reality. So thanks for this one, Google. Maybe we’ll even forgive you for this year’s failed joke.


Angela Chen is the morning editor at Gizmodo.

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