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?
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.
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.
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.