Beta testing of the upcoming Pokémon GO game for iOS kicked off in the United States today, with Niantic Labs sending out beta invites to customers who signed up to be field testers earlier this month. Beta testing is already underway in Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
Pokémon GO, first announced last year, is being developed by Niantic Labs in collaboration with The Pokémon Company. It will allow Pokémon fans to search real world locations to collect, battle, and trade more than 100 different Pokémon.
As was detailed in previous posts, Pokémon Go will notify players when they're near a catchable Pokémon, with the iPhone used to throw a Poké Ball. PokéStops around the world, located at places like public art installations and historical markers, will allow players to stock up on Poké Balls and discover Pokémon Eggs.
Alongside the launch of the U.S. beta test, more details have been revealed about the way the battle mechanics will work in the game. Each Pokémon Go user will be encouraged to join one of three teams to engage in Gym battles with other teams. Gym battles can be undertaken once a team is joined, and Gyms, like Pokémon, are located in real world locations around the world. Evolving Pokémon has also been added to the game.
Battling is essential to any Pokémon game, and Pokémon GO is no different. Players can battle using the Pokémon they've caught to gain control of a Gym. By using their own Pokémon's attacks and dodging incoming attacks by swiping left and right on the screen, Pokémon GO players can defeat the defending Pokémon to reduce the Gym's Prestige.
Once the Gym's Prestige reaches zero, the defending team loses control of the Gym, and the victor's Pokémon can be assigned to defend the Gym. When a team has control of a Gym, team members can increase its Prestige and level by training their Pokémon with other defending Pokémon. As the Gym gets to a higher level, the defending team gains the ability to assign more Pokémon to defend it. They can also team up with friends and battle together at a rival Gym to take down stronger Gyms faster.
Pokémon Go will be free to download when it launches later in 2016. In-app purchases will be available, allowing players to buy PokéCoins for power-ups and extra items. No concrete release date has been provided for Pokémon Go, but with the expansion of the beta test, a launch is growing closer. Customers who want to sign up for the field test can do so on the Niantic Labs website.