Google has a special treat for techies and Pokémon fans alike. The company, with a little help from Pikachu and his Pokémon pals, launched an April Fool’s Day prank on Google Maps when the clock struck midnight and April 1 began in Japan and Australia.
Google, via a YouTube video, announced a Pokémon Challenge that will allow users of the Google Maps mobile app to search the world over for 150 wild Pokémon spread throughout the globe in real locations. Those committed to the challenge – which is presumably fake but looks real enough – are asked to tap on the creatures, who are awaiting capture, and collect them in a Pokédex. In the video, Google Maps VP Brian McClendon says the challenge winner will be hired as the company’s “Pokémon Master.”
True Pokémon fans will ask whether they are part of the original 150 Pokémon characters or ones issued later. Regardless, the concept is a fun, addictive one that is sure to have a lot of people spanning the globe in search. Reportedly, people are posting them on Twitter (search for Google Pokémon) once found.
The introductory YouTube video does include a disclaimer that side effects of the challenge may include extreme excitement and a sense of accomplishment. They caution participants to not work on the Pokémon Challenge while driving or operating heavy machinery. For those who might take the job offer seriously, the disclaimer indicates that the hiring committee first needs to battle on who should be chosen to judge the Pokémon Master. In the meantime, they suggest visiting their employment listings on the Google corporate Web site to find other open roles.
While it is doubtful the job of Pokémon Master is really waiting at the end of the challenge (say April Fools!), there are Pokémon lurking on Google Maps. One is in Lafayette Square near the White House and Pikachu himself has been spotted in Toyko. While these were hiding in plaing sight, Google warns that some are in forests and up mountains. Google did give those taking its challenge a deadline to find them all by 2 p.m. PT on April 2.
This is not the first time the tech giant has conducted an April Fools’ Day hoax using its Web apps. As always, their sense of humor pervades. On a blog posting, the company indicated that it values employees who are risk-taking and detail-oriented … and can navigate through tall grass to capture wild (Pokémon) creatures.
Since 2000, Google has entertained with elaborate pranks. They included a beta launch of a smell-searching product called Google Nose, a fake Gmail update saying the product was turning blue as an improvement, and several others. Some, like the current Pokémon Challenge, with its slick YouTube video, blog posting and programming to place all the Pokémon on the map, clearly took a lot of effort.
Stay tuned to see if other hoaxes are forthcoming. In the meantime, enjoy hunting for Charizard, Onyx and other Pokémon and enjoy the way Google chose to say April Fools!
By Dyanne Weiss