Haven’t heard of Pokémon GO? That’s awfully hard to believe. Released in selected markets on July 6, 2016, the app has been installed over 100 million times in less than a month. Despite privacy issues, bugs, a server crash and even deaths, the game IS the biggest thing in mobile since the iPhone and its impact may be the turning point in the adoption of Augmented Reality (AR).
First created by Satoshi Tajiri in 1995, the game is the latest in a long-line of Pokémon (pocket monster) releases from Nintendo. It’s a franchise that also includes movies, playing cards, and a long-running TV series. What sets Pokémon GO apart from others, such as Yo-Kai Watch, is the integration of AR technology.
Whilst mobile VR is not just for gamers, Pokémon GO is by far the most popular AR game to date and it has the world in a flurry.
1. Are You Experienced?
For many people, Pokémon GO is their first AR experience. While it remains to be seen if the game’s popularity is being driven by its novelty, there is no denying that initial feedback on the experience has been positive – if not addictive.
The game is also helping to bring generations together. Some reports have observed children, parents and even grandparents banding together to search for Pokémon. As a result, the demographics of the mobile app are much wider than any previous Pokémon release. The game is laying the foundations for mass adoption of the technology and is finally showing advertisers and others how they utilize the technology.
According the Reuben Sushman, managing director at 375 Park Associates, “This could be the moment when the virtual not only becomes visceral but also accessible.” Pokémon GO could become the opportunity small- to mid-sized mobile app developers have been looking for.
According to research from Forrester in 2015 and comScore in late-2014, nearly 80% of all smartphone app usage is concentrated on a handful of apps. Mr. Sushman went on to add, “from the viewpoint of growth, Pokémon GO has created a new category within the fast-maturing and highly concentrated world of mobile apps.”
2. Community Building
Pokémon GO requires players to interact with their surroundings. In doing so, players get to know other game players. For example, PokéStops and Pokémon are static. Whilst this might be seen as a drawback from a technical perspective, these static locations act as beacons for players. Even cheats, such as “lures”, have a communal aspect as other players can see and benefit from them.
Local businesses are already benefiting by PokéStops, and some hosts have even begun using lures as a way to increase traffic. While it is uncertain if the benefits can be sustained, the game might be the genesis of a new model in using technology to build communities. One which relies less on mass messaging and more on location awareness. Granted Foursquare tried, and almost succeeded, with a similar idea. But the integration of AR has raised the bar significantly.
3. Gamification on Steroids
Medals, badges, and other mobile doodads have been around for years. Habitual Fitbit users are racking up floors and lifetime miles like crazy. However, the rewards have been one dimensional. The integration of AR opens the possibility of multiplayer gaming which integrates your local surroundings. In this way, players do not need an expensive and cumbersome VR rig. Instead, they use their phones to interact with others.
The implantation is still a bit tricky. This could be expanded into other fields, such as education (e.g. museum tours or group learning exercises), and even industrial applications. Even in banking and finance, the combination of AR and gamification can be used to increase customer engagement.
4. Disrupting Tech Adoption
In simple terms, the adoption of any new technology follows three stages:
- Early adoption
- Critical mass
- Mass acceptance
While the game hasn’t jumped to mass acceptance yet, its runaway popularity has thrown a ‘slight curve’ at how new technology is adopted by basically skipping the early adopter stage. The disruption is not only on the user side. Many budding entrepreneurs are quickly working out ways to make money from Pokémon GO. As such, the game has accelerated faster than a Formula E racer.
What is not clear at this point is whether this is a one-time phenomenon, or can the app’s success be replicated. In addition, Pokémon GO, and all AR, the end state in terms of affordable, mass-accepted immersive computing. Or it is the turnkey to acceleration of VR-related technologies? The jury might be out, but it looks like the technology is here to stay.
Whilst mobile VR is not just for gamers, the ‘virality’ of Pokémon GO could be a game changing moment in the broader adoption of AR. Not only is it disrupting the classical model of technology adoption, the game is already changing how we use technology – either to form communities or conduct business. Granted it is still early, but Pokémon GO is clearly showing the masses how AR is done.