Pokémon Go is the New App Giant
I’m not going to lie—I never really got into Pokémon. There, I said it. I remember teasing my cousin for his card collection, dismissing his hobby as too childish to even consider. Give me the much more sophisticated Magic: The Gathering, and poo poo to your Charizards and Squirtles.
So when that same cousin introduced me to the Pokémon Go app over the weekend, I brushed it off with the same know-it-all arrogance I felt towards his Pokémon card deck. But that was before I saw the gameplay and realized how revolutionary it actually was. It’s undeniably and intrinsically… (dare I say it) cool.
If you don’t have a nerdy cousin or haven’t yet heard of Pokémon Go, let me break it down for you. Similar to the classic Pokémon card game, you’re trying to “catch ‘em all”. That is, you want to build up your collection of Pokémon creatures and use them to battle opposing teams. It’s the way you find Pokémon that is the cool part: through the use of GPS, your back-facing camera and augmented-reality (AR) graphics, the creatures are displayed on your phone as if they were actually there in the real world.
Source: the Guardian.com
To catch Pokémon, you use your Pokéballs and swipe at the creature on the screen. If someone else catches it before you, no problem. There are tons of Pokémon to go around. They spawn up everywhere and often (but more so in large urban centers than anywhere else—sorry farmers). You can find them in the streets, in the park, behind your local grocery store...basically, anywhere.
Once you have your Pokémon, you can improve their stats and experience by training them. That is, you battle them at friendly or enemy gyms (depending on your team), which are usually located at prominent real-world meeting places. Real-world places can also be “Pokéstops”, which are more like stores or caches that drop loot including Pokéballs, snacks for your Pokémon, and medicine for your wounded.
One of the best things about this game is that it ties the gamer back to reality—making him or her physically move around and interact in the real world, while still enjoying a game they love. It’s basically taking the idea of geocaching to a whole new level. Moms and dads everywhere are rejoicing.
The fun and addictiveness of this game is exemplified by the overall success that Nintendo and Niantic have seen in the past week. Fortune’s website notes, “Shares in Japan’s Nintendo soared again on Monday, bringing market-value gains to $7.5 billion in just two days.” It’s also now on more Android phones than the giant dating app Tinder, and its rate of daily users is on par with Twitter. Again, this is after less than a week of being available, and it hasn’t even been released globally yet.
It’s also already having an interesting effect on small businesses. Check out this sign below from an Imgur user’s local indie clothing store upon finding they were a Pokéstop. Marketing genius!
The sad part is, Pokémon Go is only available in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand right now. Although originally planned for global release, Niantic Labs has decided to hold back due to overwhelming demands on their servers. But with the rollout of countries like Canada and Japan coming—one of the world’s biggest gaming markets—I doubt we’re going to see a drop in the app’s success any time soon. Even naysayers like me are rethinking our cynicism about the franchise. I’ll admit right now, I’ll be one of the first to download it when it pops up in my Google Play. Until then, I’ll have to live vicariously through my cousin. I think that’s called karma.