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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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.”