Erin is a Public Relations student at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen and she is currently working at PDMS on a marketing internship for the summer.
Yes – even we are talking about Pokémon Go.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few weeks, there is very little chance that you have not heard of the new app released by Niantic Labs (a Google spin off company) in association with Nintendo. PokémonGo is certainly making huge waves globally: it already has more users than Twitter, is #1 in the App store - not to mention Nintendo’s share price has more than doubled since its launch! With millions of people falling in love with Niantic’s newest title, the ingenious use of Augmented Reality (AR) technology is redefining gaming. Given its massive success, we thought it is something worth looking into in a little more detail. Why do people love it? How did the use of a new AR technology make the game an instant success?
What is Pokémon Go?
In case you don’t know, Pokémon Go, which launched in early July, is a game that uses your smartphone’s GPS and clock to detect when and where you are in the game and make Pokémon (pocket monsters) “appear” on the screen so you can go and catch them.Pokémon Go players have to journey the physical world, and as you move around, different and more types of Pokémon will appear depending on where you are and what time it is.
The Evolution of Pokémon
Over the past 20 years, Pokémon has been a mainstay of popular culture in the form of video games, animated films, action figures and a collectible card game. However, most thought they had left the world of Pokémon back in their childhoods. How wrong were they? Pokémon Go is especially popular among the generation which witnessed the first wave of success in the 90s/early 2000s. Playing Pokémonis current again, and people are re-discovering their favourite pocket monsters from when they were kids, whilst at the same time a whole new generation has been introduced to characters such as Arcanine, Charizard and Flareon.
Pokémon Go is the epitome of a brand new technology called Augmented Reality (AR) successfully applied in today’s society. AR is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user's view of the real world. In the case of Pokémon Go, the technology allows the user to access the phone’s camera which enables a Pokémon to appear on the screen in amongst their actual surroundings. As these new technologies are becoming mainstream, all it takes is one breakout application to help us understand how much they will impact our lives. Pokémon Go is that app. With more than 300 million downloads after a few days, this interactive AR game leveraged nostalgia to gain initial traction, and social technology, to get us all absolutely obsessed.
Pokémon Go is a great example of digital transformation. Its publisher Nintendo has successfully recognised current trends in technology and consumer behaviour. Nowadays, our smartphones almost constitute as an extra limb, we use it as a means for communication, a source of information, for navigation services… and mini-game consoles. The craze surrounding PokémonGo is a direct result of Nintendo’s so-called “same generation hypothesis,” which basically refers to the fact that there are people who continuously, be it consciously or unconsciously, stick to their childhood games, even after they’ve grown up.
Can It Actually Be Good for You?
Despite what is said in the media about video games, PokémonGo does actually have some benefits to its users other than the pure entertainment value. The obvious benefit is that people are getting more exercise by having to physically walk to find Pokémon. Anything that gets people, young people in particular, up and off their couches can only be a good thing in the long run.
There is also a real social aspect to this game with PokémonGo-ers meeting fellow players on their travels. It’s an incredible opportunity to make some friends in an organic, unique way that no video game has ever matched before. And of course, people are exploring places they may have never known about or been to before, that is if they look up from their phones long enough to notice!
Controversy & Issues
PokémonGo has, however, received mixed reviews. Some are addicted to it and celebrate this game as the best thing since sliced bread, and then there are the negative reviews and news surrounding the app’s launch with people being disappointed by things such as the limited server capabilities, battery usage and safety issues it evokes. A man in America drove into a police car while playing the game and there have also been reports of muggings and attacks around the world where the victims have been lured to traps set by criminals. Niantic, along with local authorities, are continuously reminding wannabe Pokémon Trainers to always be aware of their surroundings.
The main technical issue people have with the app is how quickly it drains the phone’s battery, so best to plan ahead if you are hunting for your very own Pikachu. As well as this, servers are constantly crashing due to the sheer amount of traffic and high demand, however, Niantic are continuously working on these glitches.
What’s Coming Next?
Now that some of the initial hype has died down we can take a closer look at how the technologies used in this game could impact us. The potential of these types of games is huge, and it is not a question if there will be follow-ups, but rather, when and what they will be. There are already rumours of a Harry Potter version and with Apple on the brink of investing in it heavily for all iOS devices, it seems AR technology will only get bigger and better. However, even if Augmented Reality turns out to be a ‘flash in the pan’, it will remain a singular moment in pop culture when grown men and women ran about the streets searching for Pokémon.
Despite some of the downsides to Pokémon which have grabbed headlines, we have to give Nintendo and Niantic massive credit for what they have achieved. They have realised and seized one of many new opportunities brought to us through the rise of digital and mobile technology. Even if the result is not 100% perfect (and what is?), they have undoubtedly kick started a massive trend of new technology becoming mainstream, by re-shaping the image of their organisation, and ultimately, how people are gaming on-the-go.