The creators of an upcoming Pokemon smartphone game have announced new details about how the app will work, revealing some interesting ideas about how to bring the classic games into the real world.

Niantic -- a smartphone game developer formerly owned by Google -- revealed Thursday that parts of the new app will closely reflect the spirit of the original games. The game will tap into players' location data to determine what kind of Pokemon they can catch in their area, blending the real world and the digital one. For example, water-type Pokemon will appear near lakes and oceans.

Players will also be able to compete with each other using the Pokemon they've caught, and level up as they continue to play. According to Thursday's press release, Pokemon Go players will also be able to join one of three factions in the game and compete for control of Pokemon Gyms scattered at real locations around the world. That's reminiscent of another popular Niantic game, Ingress, in which players join one of two factions that compete for territory by visiting real-world locations with their smartphones.

Pokemon Go is expected to launch this year, though Nintendo has not given a specific date.

Gaming companies are increasingly looking to smartphones as as a possible replacement for handheld gaming devices, but also as a way to tap into the growing mainstream audience for video games.

When Nintendo announced that it would begin developing more mobile games, it stirred a lot of excitement among fans -- and analysts -- who have long clamored for the company to embrace smartphone gaming. But reaction to the firm's efforts has been mixed. Nintendo's first official mobile app, Miitomo, is more of a social network than a game and doesn't feature any classic Nintendo characters, such as Mario. The service has yet to launch in the United States, but is performing well in Japan, where it gained 1 million users in five days. Many are eager to see how Pokemon Go fares, as a test of how viable it would be for Nintendo -- one of the three businesses that owns the Pokemon copyright -- to release games with its most bankable characters on the new platform.

It will have stiff competition, however. Also on Thursday, Sony announced that it will launch a company solely dedicated to making titles for smart devices. The company saidit is looking to its extensive catalog of Sony characters and PlayStation titles as it develops new games.