We will start with a little backstory on why I am infatuated with this old school 90’s game. I’m 24 years old, and this game takes me back to being 8-years-old and sitting in my best friend’s backyard throwing our McDonald’s plastic Pokéball at roly poly’s and pretending my overweight dachshund was a real life Pokémon. Being that age and pretending Pokémon were real life creatures was an amazing work of imagination, but it was just that … Imagination.
What the phenomenon of Pokémon GO has done is brought these creatures from our childhood right to us through our Smartphones. Video game nerds are breaking out of their caves and actually seeing the sun. Nintendo and Niantic have brought back the outdoors to the pale hipsters of 2016. Full disclosure, I walked over 3-miles last night to hatch an egg…and I was not the only one in my apartment complex wandering around at 11p.m.
Being both a Millennial and a Project Manager for many clients at Swarm, here’s my prediction on why Pokémon GO will be a boom and not a bust in the world of mobile gamification.
1) A Street With A View
This game literally put itself on the [Google] map. The heart and soul of this game comes from the brains behind Google Maps. The use of integrating Google Map Street View for Poké Stops brings together the best of our real and digital worlds. The game also provides a new way for people to interact. When you reach level five, you can go into a gym and battle other players (this is where multiplayer kicks in). In order to get to a gym, you have to physically walk yourself to it. Google Maps has provided real life spots that are now Pokémon gyms where you can win. If you are good enough, you can control the gym. The game has turned everyday places around the world into hot spots for Pokémon GO. Now everyone from gamers to grandma can chase down a Squirtle and earn major bragging rights.
2) Let’s Play!
The CEO of Swarm just ran by my desk and said, “I just caught a Pikachu in the kitchen!” In a time when there is so much negative news being reported, maybe we all need some senseless fun. One positive effect of Pokémon GO is that users are getting more exercise, even when they’re not setting out for it. Most of us sit behind desks all day, dreaming of the days of our youth when we could knock on a friend’s house and ask for a spontaneous play date. That lifestyle is coming back. I texted my friend the other day and said, “Hey man, there is a Pikachu somewhere around your apartment…I’m coming over to play!” This game is making people want to ask their friends to play outside. And not just the people that are active and outside anyways. It’s kids that are usually glued to the TV or a college kid that is binge-watching Netflix. People are outside again and it is all thanks to a video game company. The irony! We still crave community despite our “social” lives often being isolated behind iDevices and computer screens.
3) When Worlds Collide
Our Vice President of Accounts and Strategy, Jason Prance, who also happens to be our tech guru, agrees that Pokémon GO has tapped into something special with Augmented Reality (AR) that no one has done yet. What Pokémon GO is doing with AR in this game is incredibly special. They are allowing the user to switch from AR mode to just a templated background if you like that better (no one). AR is special for this game because the technology is really putting Pokémon is the real world for the first time. This is really going to challenge other brands to amp up their game if they want to implement AR. Pokémon GO has made a seamless transition from a digital world to reality, and when you are watching this transition, it feels natural and fun. Jot down another win for Nintendo and Niantic.
4) Marketing Matters
Pokémon GO already has more downloads than Tinder and is pulling in close behind to Twitter in daily active users. How did this mobile game generate this much traffic in less than a week of release? With no billboards, no TV commercials and no traditional ad spend, Pokémon GO grew in popularity through mostly word-of-mouth marketing. Most of you found out about it through Facebook articles, water cooler chatter and city-dwellers walking by you with Pokémon purpose on the Atlanta Beltline. Brand trust is key, and when the people you know, love and live around are taking note, you listen. Junichi Masuda, Pokémon Director, credits word-of-mouth among Japanese school children for turning Pokémon into a worldwide success 20-years ago. Don’t mess with a good thing.
5) The Future of Mobile
There are a lot of brands that are trying to have the best app or an app that makes people’s experience easier or more accessible. Using an app and possibly AR could allow a customer to see what a bed would look like in their new master suite before purchasing it. Using AR on mobile is not just for games or apps, but is just the tip of the iceberg with this type of technology. Pokémon GO is the first to nail it on its head and bring it into the mainstream. Mobile phones are only getting better, with more streamlined designs, sharper cameras, more interactive apps, and a blend of our real and virtual realities. The consumer’s journey will only continue to live on mobile and beyond.
I am excited to share my point-of-view about what is becoming more than just a game – it’s an experience. Don’t just take my word for it, download it, play it, and be the best Pokémon trainer you can be! Now excuse me because there is a Wartortle around my office and he already escaped once… But not this time.