Learning From The Success of Pokemon Go

When Pokemon Go launched in July of this year, no one expected it to become the smash hit that it is. Yet, nearly a month later, with more daily users than Twitter and one of the fastest selling apps to date, the latest game from Silicon Valley-based Niantic, Inc. (who also brought us Ingress) is an undeniable phenomenon. But how and why?

Pokemon Go, Pokeball

Afterall, the Pokemon franchise from Nintendo is 20 years old. While iconic, many might guess it would have peaked and reached niche status by now. And in a way it has, but that’s  a part of the lure of the game. The game has been the biggest hit with those who grew up with Pokemon rather than those who know nothing about it (though they’ve gotten involved as well), and the decision to make it that way is most clear in the choice of platform for the game: mobile phone versus Nintendo DS or another device targeted to children.

Over half of all adults in the U.S. own smartphones, 64% to be exact. In 2016, people use their phones to do pretty much everything, from paying bills to trading stocks and interacting with people on social media. Gaming on mobile devices is also up, and the creators of the game understood that concept well enough to follow suit, going to where their audience is rather than requiring them to adopt a new device altogether. By doing so, Pokemon Go becomes an instant reminder anytime one’s phone is in hand, which is pretty much all the time, and the addictive qualities therein are enhanced.

Pikachu character from the Pokemon game
Pikachu

Additionally, the creators of the game understood what people most enjoy about it–the idea of catching, training and battling cute, cuddly creatures. Yet, they took it a step further by integrating the virtual world of the game into our real one. The result: an augmented reality version of a game from one’s childhood, which incorporates GPS and the mobile devices people use daily. It’s almost too good to be true for those who enjoy adventure and competition, and that’s just the beginning.

 

The game sealed the deal by adding a social component to the entire process. Unlike the seclusion for which video games and mobile usage are known, people actually left their homes, joined others in parks, stores and other public places, all because of the game. It’s rather impressive.

Pokemon Go

Of course, the game has not gone without criticism. Some have played carelessly, including trying to catch Pokemon while driving. The game has also been blamed for drawing unwanted tourists into certain spaces. Despite its hiccups, there is no denying the success of Pokemon Go as the biggest game in mobile history. It is certainly something every creative can learn from.

 

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What To Expect From Apple in 2016

Apple has over 1 billion devices in-use throughout the world. It’s no secret that the company and the brand has been a hit with users for well over a decade. In fact, releases of their game-changing products are considered events, sparking engagement from fans and non-fans alike. Thus, in the world of tech where things change very quickly and result in a practically annual release of new products or updates, this year will be no different.

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Macbook, iPad, iPhone 6

But what can consumers expect from Apple in 2016? A new iPhone? New laptops or more focus on the declining iPad? Perhaps all of that and some. According to Macrumors and 9to5Mac–fan blogs dedicated to news and updates centered around the company–here are some of the things likely in the works over in Cupertino.

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iPhone 6 and Mac

iPhone 7

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iPhone 6 in Silver and Space Gray

Last year’s iPhone 6s saw Apple introducing new colors and an array of new features like 3D touch and live photos. The company also hit a new sales record, selling 13 million devices in just 3 days. Sales have pretty much stalled, however. Maybe because consumers are waiting for an official number upgrade (i.e. iPhone 6 to iPhone 7). Details expected in the potential fall release include doing away with the headphone jack and a thinner, sleeker phone altogether. It will be interesting to see.

Apple Watch 2

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Wearing an Apple Watch

As expected, Apple’s entry into the smartwatch industry last year changed the game. Despite a hefty price tag and not many features, the watch became the most popular of the year, with over half of all shipments of any smartwatch device, coming from the company. Apple will no doubt want to capitalize off that with new features and a highly publicized release. Experts suggest such may be coming as early as March.

Apple Streaming

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Image of a Smart TV

Apple currently has its Apple TV device, with which users can connect to their TVs and access iTunes, ESPN, and Netflix, among other things; but the company is said to be moving in the direction of the aforementioned Netflix and Amazon, with a streaming service of its own. It’s expected that the company will partner with a single or multiple cable companies to provide bundles and a monthly subscription price tag of about $40–more expensive than other streaming services, but cheaper than cable. Reports of such first surfaced last year, but it could come to fruition later in 2016.

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Holding up an iPad

These new developments will certainly boost the company’s popularity with consumers and investors, which seem to be bearish about the future of the company because of “dying” interest. Hopefully the updates will be as significant and groundbreaking as the company’s earlier releases. We’re all expecting something amazing; let’s see if Tim Cook and team will rise to the challenge.

Why Game Developers Prefer iOS

Black iPhone showcasing native apps, held by Anthony Beyer
Anthony Beyer – iPhone home screen

Less than a decade ago, the iPhone launched and changed the worlds of tech and telecommunications forever. One of many brainchildren of the late Steve Jobs, the iPhone’s popularity with consumers quickly dominated all conversation about smartphones, upon its release, from apps to the relevance of a keyboard, its appearance (at the time, it was available only in black with silver), and, of course, its unique operating system. Since that time, however, it has experienced stiff competition in the mobile devices/software sector, most notably from Google-powered Android systems.

In 2014, nearly 7 years after its initial release, the iPhone had amassed over 470 million sales of its product; the incredible growth has been lauded by companies and investors the world over. Still, the number pales in comparison to the amount of devices which operate on the Android system: a whopping 1 billion users, which is more than half of iPhone/iOS users, overall. With such a large difference, it would seem that game/app developers would be looking to get their creations into as many hands as possible. Think about it, 1 billion people with access to a game you created would be cool, to say the least. However, for many developers, it’s not at all that simple.

A black iPhone 6 with purple home screen on AMOLED display, pictured in Anthony Beyer's car.
Anthony Beyer – iPhone 6

In fact, simplicity is just one of the reasons developers are choosing to launch on iOS as opposed to Android. Considering that iOS only runs on Apple devices, developers only have to test a few models, about 10, according game developer Barry Meade. On the other hand, Android runs on a number of different devices from various companies, with multifarious hardware, interfaces, etc. As a result, developers may have to test up hundreds–yes, hundreds–of different devices to ensure that the game works properly across all platforms.

Subsequently, most developers go with an iOS first strategy, resulting in a slow rollout of games on the Android side. Ben Kuchera, writing for Polygon, further explained the reason behind this, saying: “…with an iOS-first strategy you can release the game to many users with only a small chance of bugs arising due to differences in hardware, which means that when a bug does arise on iOS it’s likely unconnected to the hardware and by fixing it, you are also fixing that bug for any future Android build.”

A picture of a phone running android software, taken by Anthony Beyer.
Anthony Beyer – Phone running Android Software

But that isn’t the only reason developers prefer iOS to Android. According to multiple studies, like this one by App Annie Index, Apple’s iOS users buy more apps than Android users. Furthermore, they spend nearly four times as much on apps, despite the large differences in the number of users worldwide. Also, Android development typically costs 30% more than iOS development. Therefore, by choosing to place games on iOS, developers are getting more bang for their buck in multiple ways.

Nevertheless, Kuchera did make clear that the preference for Apple has nothing to do with Android users, themselves. In the previously-linked article, he expressed that Android users were great and that the experience with the software was pleasant. However, he clarified, “as a dev you’ve also got to take the platform’s particularities into account. One thing I knew going into it was that the ‘unpaid install’ rate would likely be around 95 percent and this is exactly what I’ve observed. In a lot of cases the smart thing to do is to convert your premium game to be free-to-play on Android, but that just didn’t make sense for Prune, nor was it something that I was personally interested in.”

Anthony Beyer opens his new smartwatch

Gaming & The Smartwatch

Anthony Beyer's photo of high tech, black and blue smartwatch.
Anthony Beyer – Futuristic Smartwatch

From arcade games to consoles, computers to Game Boys, and smartphones to tablets, gaming and, therefore, game development has evolved rapidly over the last three decades. As technology has continued to expand, so has the world of development and possibilities for creatives in the industry. Yet, while cell phones are seemingly getting larger, with a desire for more visual space from consumers, another much, much smaller platform is on the horizon, providing an additional though exciting challenge for developers: the smartwatch.

While some publications like TechRadar.com have traced the history of the smartwatch to the early 1980s–with Seiko’s Pulsar NL C01, which could be connected to a printer and included a memory cartridge slot–the devices of yesteryear were not nearly as advanced as what is available to consumers now, mostly because of technological advances, like bluetooth and wireless connectivity, some 30 years later. In fact, up until very recently, the popularity and overall necessity of such a device was uncertain. Yet, with Apple selling 6 million of the devices since its release earlier this year, and with expectations to double that number with 4th quarter holiday sales, eyes are on the smartwatch as the next big (figuratively speaking, of course) thing.

Anthony Beyer's photo of an apple watch with the clock, date and time displayed
Anthony Beyer – Smartwatch Clock

Aki Järvilehto, CEO and founder of Everywear Games, personally believes that the smartwatch is the ideal gaming platform. Speaking about the Apple Watch, specifically, he said the smartwatch will change the development world for the following reasons: “They’re always available and will get you in the game in seconds, much faster than any other platform. We are already seeing a frequency of use among our players that is simply unprecedented in games.” And unlike other platforms, games are shorter, more simple, or what Järvilehto has called “Twitter-sized” entertainment, making games on the device possibly more addictive, resulting in more frequent use.

Not everyone is sold on smartwatch gaming, however. Some of the caution has been attributed to the difficulty for developers to manage advertising and for the lack of interest in paid games, in comparison to other platforms, at present. Nevertheless, experts suggest that dismissing the idea altogether could be a mistake, considering that shifts in gaming have been consistent with almost every new invention, using the fact that mobile gaming has exceeded desktop gaming in popularity, as an example.

Another factor for developers to consider is the decline in growth in mobile gaming revenue. Recent datashows that revenue of six popular mobile gaming companies grew a combined 1 percent in the second quarter of 2015, in stark contrast to the rapid growth in years prior, signaling that the market is at maturity. Research analyst and CFO for Zynga Asia suggests that what could save the industry is development in untapped markets and “unexplored territories.”

Anthony Beyer on a drive with, using his smartwatch for directions
Anthony Beyer – Driving with a Smartwatch

At any rate, smartwatch gaming is relatively new, so skepticism is natural. However, all signs point to continued growth and advancement. As with anything else, those who get there first will have some advantages and will likely be first to see the benefits. It’s too early to tell whether the platform will be as large as, say, cell phones or desktop; however, there is growth and that deserves some consideration.