The idea for the game was conceived in 2013 by Satoru Iwata of Nintendo and Tsunekazu Ishihara of The Pokémon Company as an April Fools’ Day collaboration withGoogle called Pokémon Challenge, with Tatsuo Nomura of Google Maps, who then became a senior project manager at Niantic, at the center of the project. In 2015, Ishihara dedicated his speech at the game’s announcement on September 10 to Iwata, who had died two months earlier. The decision to create the Go Plus rather than create a smart watch app was to increase uptake among players for whom a smart watch is prohibitively expensive.
On March 4, 2016, Niantic announced a Japan-exclusive beta test would begin later that month, allowing players to assist in refining the game before its full release. The beta test was expanded to other countries after. On April 7, it was announced that the beta would expand to Australia and New Zealand. Then, on May 16, the signups for the field test were opened to the United States. On June 27, The Pokémon Company announced that the test would come to an end on June 30.