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Rachel Rayner

Published on

July 15, 2016


Augmented reality, Pokemon Go

Pokemon isn’t just for kids anymore. The booming popularity of Pokemon Go has crashed servers, and become an obsession for people of all ages all over the world.

Pokemon Go is the biggest mobile game ever, beating Candy Crush Saga to the top spot, with over 20 million daily active users in the US alone. (source)

Just two days after the release, the game was installed on more than 5% of all Android phones in the US.

Users are spending a whopping 43 minutes on the app every day, compared to 30 minutes on WhatsApp, 25 on Instagram, and a puny 12 minutes on Snapchat.

There are now more Pokemon players than active Twitter Users in the US. It’s eclipsed installs of Tinder – suggesting that players would rather catch a Pikachu than someone’s eye.

The Pokemon Technological Revolution

Whether Pokemon Go is a flash in the pan, or a game which achieves long-lasting popularity or cultural impact remains to be seen.

However we remember the game, we will look back on it as the catalyst that brought augmented reality – and sibling technologies, virtual reality and 360 video – out of the realm of high tech businesses and geeky consumers and into the hands of the rest of us.

The Pokemon revolution isn’t about Pokemon. It’s about AR.

How Pokemon Go Works

Currently only available in certain countries (or, all over if you don’t mind bending the rules somewhat), the Pokemon Go differs from most other games as it involves players (Pokemon Trainers) walking around real world. Instead of tapping a button to move a character, the player must physically move around to move their avatar and advance the game.

Once outside, trainers can collect goods like Pokeballs at Pokestops, which are then used to catch Pokemon. Pokemon can be battled against one another in Gyms, as users fight for one of three teams.

Pokemon Go is nothing new.

The game Ingress relied on players walking through their city and capturing landmarks for their team. Just like Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go is built by the same team which created Ingress, and while reworking the game has hooked into a powerful vein of nostalgia, the gameplay itself isn’t great.

It eats battery life faster than any combination of apps I’ve ever used, server overload means that it crashes frequently and sometimes is inaccessible, and because it relies on GPS you can’t play it on the tube (unlike Candy Crush).

So why is Pokemon Go so popular?

The difference isn’t the GPS. It’s the AR. When a Pokemon appears in the game, it also appears on screen, overlaid on a video feed of the real world.

It’s this overlaying of a virtual world on the real world that has proven irresistible.

And with Nintendo’s value shooting up to its highest level since 1983, with more than $7.5 billion dollars added to the company’s market value since the game’s release, it’s worth looking at how AR can benefit your organization.

Bring AR into Your Organization

Take a lesson from Professor Willow’s Pokedex: AR can translate into success. Here’s four ideas for bringing AR into your organization:

Overlay VR or AR on an existing product.

The Pokemon franchise has a twenty year history during which it has honed game mechanics. Still, Pokemon Go is very similar to the premise set out in the original GameBoy games.

Demonstrate a product, or take a walk-through in 360 Video.

As discussed in a previous blog post, 360 video isn’t true augmented or virtual reality. But like AR and VR, it pulls users into the experience you create. With 360 degree video capability available on Facebook and YouTube, it’s accessible to the majority of your audience.

Don’t underestimate real-world events and the power of friendship.

The Pokemon franchise has always emphasized the power of friendship. While in the TV show and movies, this has leaned towards parent-approved moral lessons, in the real world of Pokemon Go, we have seen users come together on Pokemon hunts, sharing knowledge about rare Pokemon and banding together to defeat rival gyms.

Offering in-store VR experiences, as discussed in a previous blog post, allows you to control the experience and message and engages your audience in the real world. And if you brand your experience “for you and a friend” you’ve potentially double your audience.

Bring AR into your bricks-and-mortar business.

We’ve heard reports of eager Trainers clustering into shops which have – through algorithmic error or perhaps as a joke – been marked as gyms. We don’t yet know when businesses will be able to create a sponsored location. In the meantime, consider placing a Lure (a marker which draws both Pokemon and eager trainers).
Lures might draw players into your shop. But be warned: you’ll have to download the game to use them.

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