We know it’s highly likely that you—yes, you who is reading this—is already on Pokémon GO (shout out to Red Team). If not, you’ve been aware of it. How could you not be? Everyone on your Facebook timeline and Twitter feed is losing their damn minds about it. So, what’s all the fuss about? THIS: Pokémon Go is making people get outside and find things using augmented reality, which makes your boring neighborhood a magical, fantastical realm. In short, it’s hot shit.
On average, users are spending 43 minutes a day in the app—just in case you’re like, “So?” compare that to Instagram, which only holds a user’s attention for about 25 minutes. All the data isn’t in YET, but so far we know that there are more active users on Pokémon GO than on Twitter and the Android version of the game has accumulated more downloads than Tinder (because people would rather swipe right on Mewtwo than an IRL date).
There are some rather tone-deaf articles around what makes the game so popular. Yes, using augmented reality that is native to the game itself rather than falling victim to the tech installation gap is a factor. And, yes, they have accomplished connecting online game play to an offline life, as it requires players to basically walk around their real-life world while staring at the visual map of it. And, let’s not gloss over that the majority of active users are Millennials, who will download almost anything to avoid FOMO.
Truth be told, Pokémon GO is not that different than any other game within the Pokémon franchise. You wander around, catch some pocket monsters and occasionally battle it out. It worked 20 years ago and it is working now. The Pokémon Company (no, really, that is what it is called) knows exactly what they’re doing and have made it a part of their brand promise and internal culture to literally keep it moving. They keep this promise by:
Knowing their core.
They want to (and have) created ways to bring people together in real life. The creators have an objective and a story to tell, but it’s one fueled by a greater sense of purpose. Rather than simply telling their story, they use the game as a way to connect people to one another and to have a shared experience. From the very start, they set the goal to bring the community together and every iteration of Pokémon has done just that.
Making sure they’re available.
As its communities evolved, The Pokémon Company went further. As they listened to feedback and engaged with their users, they founds ways to be available and responsive to the users’ needs. They opened their story up by providing new ways for people to join the world they created. They extended beyond a video game and became a card game, a comic book series, a run of collectible and tradeable toys and a (still on-air) cartoon show.
Staying hella relevant.
Most Pokémon gamers have been actively playing for at least five years, and anyone who’s played the game knows it’s easy to get attached to a little character that you nurture and train into something bigger and stronger. As new games are released, there are new places to look for Pokémon and new characters to catch—making the series relevant for those who have been playing since the late 90s. Knowing that their story is timeless, the creators work tirelessly on being both current and forward-thinking. The story is the same, the technology is different.
Knowing WHY it works is always interesting to dig into and it definitely speaks volumes about the franchise and brand, however, it doesn’t provide insights into the cultural shifts Pokémon GO is going to be partially responsible for. Yes, the game is downright addicting and fun, but it’s BIGGER than just that—and we have a couple of theories as to what impact it could make on the future.
CRYSTAL BALL: What could happen. (Assuming retention is high.)
This little game has the potential to make the mobile phone providers rich. Seeing as you are required to physically walk around to make the most of the game play, people are tearing through their wireless data plans. Within 48 hours, people across the nation were screenshotting text notifications that said they needed to add an additional 1GB of data to their billing cycle. Or, maybe we’ll finally see cities implement free city wifi at a faster pace.
If the game manages to keep its active audience numbers high, we may see the “FitBit effect.” A decrease in heart disease, anxiety, obesity and depression could be major possibilities. As the game rolls out new features that keep people moving, we could become a healthier and happier society.
Marketers and advertisers are chomping at the bit, wanting to know when they can start advertising through the app. Since Poke Gyms and Poke Stops were chosen seemingly at random, companies and event planners want to throw money to make their location a virtual attraction. Hell, a group of us went out this weekend for beers at a Poke Stop and brainstormed with the manager on ways to reward players for coming in at happy hour.
Yes, the idea of stomping across town looking for a Pikachu is kind of goofy, but it IS interesting to think about all the new places people are discovering as they walk around their own cities. Some are traveling a few miles a day in hopes of capturing rare types of 5b or trying their skills by battling at specific gyms. Who’s to say that we won’t see an increase of home values based on locations to a gym? Or how about an increase in church attendance? What about the creation of new jobs around Pokémon GO strategies and digital stores? You may think it’s silly, but consider how much money people have spent on Beanie Babies. Things can happen.
Original article appeared on TheBlackSheepAgency.com, June 2016.