Pokémon Go: Life in a Pokéconomy
Who saw this coming? As if out of nowhere we find ourselves, once again, in a world going crazy over the decades-old franchise that is Pokémon. Not since the ‘90s have we seen such hype around this hugely popular brand, yet here it is again – Pokémon Go has landed and it’s proven to be an instant worldwide hit.
Using Augmented Reality (AR), the Pokémon Go app encourages players to explore their real-life surroundings hunting for the lovable pocket monsters in a bid to catch, train and battle with them. From bedrooms and classrooms to lakes and forests, Pokémon have been appearing absolutely everywhere, much to the delight of fans.
In addition to AR, the app uses Google Maps data and an impressive database of real-world objects submitted by users to make up the game’s numerous Pokéstops – checkpoints where useful objects can be found. Players can wander from Pokéstop to Pokéstop, finding Pokémon, collecting objects, engaging in battles and even discovering romance.
An overnight success (sort of)
It seemed to arrive like a bolt out of the blue; all of a sudden our Facebook feeds were filled with updates and discussions about this newcomer to popular culture. Initially launched in Australia and New Zealand before being released worldwide, the App, developed by Niantic, has smashed records for the most launch week downloads and ranked #1 in both the free and top grossing charts, according to Apple.
The app saw over 10 million downloads within a week of its release, exceeding both Twitter and Tinder in the number of daily active users and racking up higher average user time than Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and WhatsApp.
Whilst this would seem to the general public like an overnight success, the creator of Pokémon Go and CEO of Niantic, John Hanke, says the app has actually taken him 20 years to develop, with his journey beginning way back in 1996 when he created his very first MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game called ‘Meridian 59’. The technology has come a long way since then, and promises to go much further in future.
What does it mean for the future of apps and AR?
Since the app launched, the tech community has become alive with discussions and predictions on where Pokémon Go will take the development of Apps and AR technology.
Whilst AR itself is nothing new, this latest use of the technology is viewed by some as the turning point in how society will expect to be able to access and consume information. Tourists could expect to be able to hold up their phones to any point of interest and see all the virtual information they could ever need overlaid on the scene in front of them. Shoppers could expect to experience a virtual fitting of their chosen clothing rather than queuing up for the changing rooms. Pokémon Go may forever change the way in which we learn, explore, consume and interact, all using AR technology.
On the flipside of the argument are those who believe that AR will not be the focus of the shift in technology trends, but rather the location data aspect of the game. Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies Inc, points out that AR actually plays a minimal role in the app, as it only comes into play during the brief moments when players use their cameras to catch the virtual Pokémon. Many players have, in fact, turned off the AR feature to save battery life and make catching the creatures easier.
The geolocation data, Bajarin goes on to note, is the technology that really makes this game interesting. As we touched upon earlier, the game is built upon a huge database of location data and without this the game wouldn’t be half as good as it is. Niantic’s new way of applying location data has unlocked a great deal of understanding and possibilities in how the technology can be applied to future apps, brands and experiences, so perhaps this is the direction the industry will go.
How are brands getting involved?
The future of the technology could go in any direction, but what’s happening right now in response to the new game is just as intriguing. With such a high-profile craze sweeping our world, brands would be mad not to hop on board and cash in on the emerging Pokéconomy, and many are embracing it wholeheartedly.
Some shops and businesses have been lucky enough to be selected for use as Pokéstops in the game, giving them a huge, free advantage over others. Players of the game will know that Pokéstops can be upgraded with ‘lure modules’ which attract all manner of Pokémon to that location for 30 minutes. Unsurprisingly, business owners have been taking advantage of this feature and setting up lures in a bid to attract real customer traffic to their stores.
Meanwhile, those businesses who don’t have the Pokéstop luxury have had to get a little more creative. Some, like Best Buy, decided to use their own products like bottled water, portable phone chargers and snacks to attract players of the game, all of which would provide much-needed assistance and sustenance for avid Pokémon hunters on the go.
Cincinnati Zoo also decided to capitalise on the craze by drawing attention to their free onsite Wi-fi, which would no doubt be a huge pull for players with limited 3G data.
And staff at UK bookstore, Waterstones, have been sharing screenshots of the virtual creatures being discovered at various points around their stores, encouraging customers to come along in search of more.
And, while brands have so far been using their own initiatives to make the most of the craze, brand collaboration could soon be elevated to the next level. Niantic developers are, of course, looking for ways to generate extra revenue from the game above and beyond the in-app purchases. With this in mind, John Hanke has revealed that Niantic is already signing deals with high street retail establishments to turn their business locations into sponsored Pokéstops. The announcements about the specifics of these sponsorships are set to be made “in the future”, according to Hanke, potentially driving the idea of a Pokéconomy out of the virtual and into reality.
Whether Pokémon Go is here for the long haul or just a fad remains to be seen, however it looks promising that this could be the start of a whole new wave of interactive technology for us all to look forward to. If nothing else, the game is one powerful form of escapism for children and adults alike, and one which we can’t deny we’re thoroughly enjoying here at Design by Day.
Here are just a few of the little critters we’ve found hiding in our very own studio:
Just like the brands getting involved with the Pokémon Go craze, we at Design By Day can help keep your brand current, engaging and relevant. Just give us a shout at email@example.com and we’ll do what we do best.