Pokémon, the franchise created by Satoshi Tajiri in 1995 played a huge part during my childhood years. From the video game on the original Game Boy, collecting trading cards to cinema trips to catch the numerous movie installments. As I reached my teenagers years, myself and many young people like me fell out of love with the little pocket-monsters. On the whole we moved on, never expecting to come back, until 2016 when Pokemon GO released...
Pokémon Go, an augmented reality (AR) app on your smartphone which uses your GPS function to encourage you to travel and catch Pokémon in your local area. An app that began as an April Fools joke has become a worldwide phenomenon, taking gamers out of the living room and on to the streets to capture, train and battle Pokémon characters.
What's happened since release?
The app itself has overtaken social media giant Twitter with over 21 million users in the USA alone.
In the short time it has been available, the game has reached a mass audience that established mobile-game brands took years to build. Already overtaking Candy Crush and Clash of Clans within a week of release. For those professionals and single-tons, Pokemon Go has a larger reach than users on LinkedIn and Tinder combined.
Analysts have predicted that Apple could make up to $3bn in revenue through in-app coin purchases within the game (Apple takes a percentage of all in-app sales). The share price of Nintendo has nearly doubled since the release of the game (adding $7.5bn), despite not directly developing the game and a complex ownership structure resulting in roughly a 32% share in Pokémon Co, which merchandises Pokémon characters. All of a sudden those childhood memories of Pokémon characters are seen in a whole different light, they have, are, and continue to generate some serious revenue.
Why all the fuss?
The cultural phenomenon that is Pokémon Go demonstrates AR to the masses but that in my view isn't its core feature, heck it can even be turned off and that is what many people are doing to conserve the ever dwindling battery life on their smartphones. For me its the geo-positioning aspect of the game alongside an established brand (Pokémon) spanning multiple generations which underpins its success.
Pokémon Go is part of something much larger already going on in our society whereby social interactions are increasingly happening online and 'gamify' our lives in a number of ways. From social media followers, counting footsteps to tracking calories. Pokémon Go uniquely creates new social interactions in the physical world by overlaying its digital 'freemium' world with Pokémon characters.
Time will tell if this is just a fad that will be confined to its die hard followers in time or whether Pokémon Go has opened up a whole new avenue for social interactions in the future. Either way I'll be hunting for that elusive Ditto and Mewtwo...