Pokémon Go is a smash hit on Android and iPhone, but there’s no version at all for Microsoft’s struggling Windows 10 Mobile, leaving some would-be players in the cold.
And given that Windows 10 Mobile’s market share is well under one per cent of all smartphones globally, there’s not a lot of incentive for game developer Niantic to ever make one.
Fortunately for those few, proud Windows 10 Mobile phone owners, there is an option: “PoGo-UWP,” a totally unsanctioned and unauthorised effort to bring the Pokémon Go phenomenon to Windows 10, spearheaded by a developer named Stefano Tenuta.
On the project’s GitHub Wiki page, Tenuta gives three main reasons for starting the PoGo-UWP project: First, “because learning new things is always cool.” Second, “because it could be done.” But third, and best of all: “Because Microsoft rejected my job application saying that I wasn’t showing enough ‘passion’, and this proves them wrong :)”
“Being rejected is always a good source for motivations, and proving that I’m better than what they thought is one of them,” Tenuta tells Business Insider.
Tenuta tells Business Insider that his unofficial PoGo-UWP app has had 50,000 unique users opening the app a combined 1.5 million times in the month or so since it was first released. That’s a fraction of the many millions of players on the official Pokémon Go app for iPhone and Android, but it’s impressive for a niche passion project.
The “UWP” part of the name refers to “Universal Windows Platform,” Microsoft’s new standard for apps that can run on desktops, tablets, and mobile phones alike. That means that if you really wanted to, you could use PoGo-UWP to play Pokémon Go on your Windows 10 PC, too.
Essentially, PoGo-UWP is a donation-funded version of the familiar Pokémon Go app rebuilt from the ground up for Windows 10, one feature at a time. A version of the game that went live on Friday added the Pokédex and the ability to see the items you’re carrying. It’s not perfect, but it works.
It connects up to the main Pokémon Go servers, so you can play with your friends on Android and iPhone. Just be advised, before we go any further, that Niantic has been cracking down on the use of unauthorised Pokémon Go tools, and using PoGo-UWP could get your account banned from the game as a cheater.
Here’s a look at the first version of the game in action. It’s apparently come a little ways since this video was uploaded:
Tenuta says that he got the inspiration from a fan-made petition going around the internet begging Niantic to bring Pokémon Go to Windows 10 Mobile. That petition had 80,000 signatures when Tenuta saw it, and it gave him the spark of an idea. Plus, as an independent app developer, he thought it might give him some visibility.
He spent a day doing technical tests to make sure it was possible, and off he went.
The first, extremely basic version of PoGo-UWP dropped at the end of July. On the project’s GitHub page, Tenuta says that he was soon bombarded with feature requests, questions, and bug reports, so much so that he ended up spending “the following 3 days working for 24 hours straight to solve them and make people happy.”
But just shy of two weeks ago, Tenuta writes, he got help in the form of a team of experienced volunteers willing to donate their time to helping him build the project. Which means that lots more features are coming, bringing it just a little bit closer to the original Pokémon Go app with each update.
“I honestly didn’t expect such help from people, but I’m really glad that they’re here because I couldn’t have done this without them,” Tenuta says.
Don’t hold your breath, though, for the game’s signature augmented reality camera mode, or for three-dimensional models of each monster. “I’m just a single dev, I’m not Niantic,” Tenuta writes.
On that subject, though, he says he’s not terribly worried about Niantic shutting his project down, even though it would be entirely within its rights to do so. Unlike most third-party Pokémon Go apps, PoGo-UWP isn’t designed to give its users an unfair edge — it’s just trying to let Windows 10 Mobile users in on the fun.
“This means that we’re not harming anyone with this project, but we’re giving more users the chance to play their game, and everyone of these users may be a potential customer for their in-app purchases, so this can be a win-win situation for both of us,” Tenuta says.
How to use it
OK, I’ll be honest with you: I don’t have a Windows 10 Mobile phone handy, so I tried installing it on a Surface Book.
Even knowing it’s more for phones than laptops, the process of getting PoGo-UWP running was a huge pain, requiring messing with a lot of settings related to installing unofficial apps. Even once I got it running, it was glitchy and unreliable. But, hey, for a free, volunteer-driven project, it ain’t bad.
If you want to give it a shot, first and foremost, you need to have or create an account for the game. Second, you need access to an iPhone or Android phone the first time you load up the game, just to select your first Pokémon, since you can’t do that from PoGo-UWP. If you don’t have one, web service Bluestacks can simulate the game in the web browser for you on PC well enough to get started.
Then, you can grab PoGo-UWP itself, per Tenuta’s landing page for the latest version. If you’re using it on a phone, you really just need to copy over the file and open it. If you’re using it on a PC, you need to install a “certificate” file first, which is where I ran into trouble, but enough random fiddling (not advised) made it work just fine.
And then, you’re off to the world of Pokémon Go. Just know that if it doesn’t work exactly right, there are a lot of known issues that Tenuta and his team are working on, so have some patience.
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