It's been roughly 20 years ago when the first Pokémon games were released. A pop culture phenomenon around the globe and a delight for children and their Gameboys. What a time to be a kid in the 90's.
In 2016 the pocket monsters strike again, but this time they come to you on your smartphone. Dust of your nostalgia, Pokémon GO is here and it leads the way to a bright future of AR apps and a long awaited success for Nintendo.
Why the hype?!
What can I say, Pokémon is one of the most successful gaming franchises ever, with over 279 million sold copies and counting across the board. It might not be as successful as Mario but it is still more successful than Call of Duty. Look it up here!
The franchise was forever linked to the Nintendo handhelds, a very popular card game and some interesting peripherals (Pokémon Pikachu Pedometer) but that was it. There was always this kind of entry barrier, especially with the older demographics.
Now they opened the floodgates. With a strong mobile partner like Niantic Inc. they realised probably a similar phenomenon as in 1996, but this time, everyone knows about Pokémon and everyone owns a smartphone.
Even if you haven't tried one game of it in the last 20 years, curiosity will get the better of you and you will at least download it to see what it's all about. I mean, why not, it's free(mium).
What makes it so appealing?
In the last years Nintendo got suspiciously silent around all smartphone matters and possibilities for a mobile IP. But now they orchestrated truly a symphony of the Zeitgeist.
It is based on a mobile experience
Everything you need is a smatphone. It targets potentially everyone. The commercials show not kids but young adults (who were kids back then) that gives us a feeling of timelessness (or is it just me?). We use our phone the whole day anywaysand there is so much time waiting, shopping, walking around that is all time that we would like to do something with besides listening to music. The reason is simple: Pokémon GO gives you a sense of achievement while catching and evolving Pokémon and gaining experience points. Basically the same that Candy Crush does to you.
Augmented Reality for the masses
AR and VR are phrases that have been around for years now and every company tried to make money of it with various products or innovations. If you ask me, Nintendo is the first company that successfully integrates a franchise into this new realm of games. To be clear, I talk about AR - which Nintendo already tried with AR cards on the 3DS, which more or less failed to break through. When we talk about VR I'm still on team Sony for the first commercial success in the mass market as I said before here by the end of 2016.
A franchise that effectively includes 2+ generations
Usually you do not have such a huge market with that kind of following. Thinking about the target groups for Pokémon there is a huge group from roughly 1 - 35 year olds that will more or less all check out the game because of their involvement either in the 90's or because they are children now and heard it's fun. The strong brand and nostalgia sorrounding the pocket monsters is immense and that made it possible to attract that kind of following in such a short period of time. Just look at the data, they surpassed Twitter and attacking Snapchat in the US, it's mindblowing:
Below you will find a short inforgraphic on users overall:
What does that mean for society?
I mean, there is always the question of: "Will it last?". And we definitely have to wait for that, but looking at myself and at the streets filled with people staring at their phones, there are some assumptions I'm willing to make:
Pokémon GO could solve some health issues. Since you have to walk to "catch 'em all" people, kids included, will take longer walks and won't sit around all day with nothing to do. That means some serious Vitamin D time and excercise, compared to sitting on the couch all day. Looking at my own data, I've been stepping up my daily game of 10k steps a day to a roughly 70% increase since the release of Pokèmon GO.
The game could help to socialise and fight depressions as mentioned here: http://www.sciencealert.com/pokemon-go-is-reportedly-helping-people-with-their-depression
Furthermore, there were always people that said gaming is anti-social. The parks are now crowded with people and I've talked to people about the game, I've walked with strangers playing the game and it felt good. Meeting new people is very easy, so Pokémon GO could potentially be the next Tinder (just kidding, or am I?).
In addition, it may also spark some new ways of creativity, marketing and business opportunities. Taking a picture with your favorite Pokémon at your local restaurant? Buying sponsored Pokémon for your corporate event? Recruiting fairs targeted at students could benefit immensely just to name a few.
Even if Pokémon GO won't stick around long, I'll still have the new titles for 3DS (Sun and Moon) to occupy myself with in November.
Have you tried Pokémon GO yet? Do you like it or is it a waste of time? Feel free to comment in the section below.
Thanks for reading!