Fuji TV Documentary to Explore 'Pokemon Go' Phenomenon

Pokemon Go Getty - H 2016
Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

The Japanese broadcaster was an early investor in developer Niantic and was given access to film in its San Francisco offices for 'How Pokemon Go Changed the World.'

Japan's Fuji TV is producing a documentary on the development and global success of augmented reality mobile app Pokemon Go.

How Pokemon Go Changed the World, with both English and Japanese versions, will explore the origins of the game from its conception at developer Niantic, in which Fuji TV was an early investor.

The documentary was shot in Niantic's offices in San Francisco, as well as some other locations in the U.S. and in Japan. It follows how what originated as a kind of April Fool's joke to put Pokemon on Google Maps in 2014 became a global phenomenon in 2016.

The initial contact between Google and The Pokemon Company came at an unlikely venue, according to Takayuki Hayakawa of Fuji TV, who oversaw the investment in Niantic and is producer on the documentary.

The offices of Google Japan and The Pokemon Company are located in the central Tokyo Roppongi Hills complex, and staff from the two companies knew each other from the building's smoking room, where the idea of a collaboration was first floated.

Some of the ideas for the merging of technology and real-world images actually date back to the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters in Japan.

"Google started a "Memories for the Future" project to revitalize the local communities after the disaster. The project invited people to post still or video images of beautiful or nostalgic scenes on online photo/video sharing sites," explains Hayakawa.

"From a technological point of view, it was the combination between a specific location and image. Actually, the concept was the prototype of so-called Poke-stop in Pokemon Go. At that time, several members of Google who were tackled with Japan's tsunami shock were focusing on the location-based technology such as Google Streetview and their experiences were applied to the development of Ingress, which was the first location-based mobile game Niantic produced before Pokemon Go," adds Hayakawa.

Hayakawa is a native of Sendai, the largest city in Japan's northeast that was hit by the disasters, and was executive producer on the Japan in a Day film project, a collaboration between Ridley Scott, Google and Fuji TV. The connections made between Hayakawa's team at Fuji TV and developers at Google/Niantic (the game developer was spun out of the internet giant) convinced the Japanese broadcaster to invest in Niantic and helped give birth to some of the ideas for Pokemon Go.

Hayakawa says global interest in broadcast rights for How Pokemon Go Changed the World is "extremely high," incomparable to the level in any previous Fuji TV documentary.

Fuji TV will premiere the first footage of How Pokemon Go Changed the World at Singapore's Asia TV Forum & Market (ATF) on Thursday, where it will launch sales. The full documentary, which includes the story of how Pokemon Go has helped save lives at one of Japan's most notorious suicide spots, will air on Fuji TV on Dec. 19.