Pokémon Go: 3 reasons it rocketed to success

Some of us never thought we'd hear the word "Jigglypuff" again.

If you haven’t heard of “Pokémon Go,” look around. This last weekend it was all over social feeds, the news, and #1 within app stores. Pokémon is about exploring a digital world and capturing Pokémon. It’s the same Pokémon chase, but this time it’s in real life assisted by a smartphone.

Fascinated by the initial success, I wanted to share my CliffsNotes on why I think it’s so popular. Here are my three reasons:

1. People come for the brand.

Pokémon is a powerful brand for the millennial age group. While most fans people have left their Nintendo devices behind, these dormant fans have been reactivated with massive scale. Only days from launch, daily active users rival Twitter and have a very high usage time compared to popular apps. This growth was amidst server crashes and bugs; people didn’t care, they wanted to “Catch’em All.” While also catching a dose of nostalgia, Pokémon Go users explore new-ish technologies: a massive location dataset and augmented reality.

2.  They want to experience a new technology

Beyond the layers branding, Google and Niantic (previously owned by Google) have set Pokémon Go up for success. There is a massive amount of people-curated location data in the game, mapping out businesses and local attractions on a worldwide scale. This data took many years and engineers to create via Google Maps, ingress and other crowdsourced data sets. Pokémon Go maps the Pokémon world using the real world data. For example, every single high school across most the US is a “Pokémon Gym,” where kids battle Pokémon for street cred. Empathy out to our public school staff!

As people explore the richest location dataset through a Pokémon lens, they are faced with a new technology: augmented reality. When a Pokémon shows up on the map, people can attempt to catch it via their augmented reality lens (cell phone).

3.  They are engulfed by a sense of community and the outdoors.

Pokémon Go is based on real world attractions, putting special emphasis on parks and other public works. As a result, people are gathering and connecting within their communities and sharing a sense of nostalgia and good weather. At my own local park, I witnessed at least 50 people playing Pokémon on Sunday night.  This park is generally vacant, and last night it went physically viral.

As marketers, we should ask ourselves whether the “Trough of Disillusionment” is coming or if Pokémon Go will evolve into a stronger app.  Investors, perhaps influenced by the fans, already boosted Nintendo’s stock up by 25%. Only time will tell if it will it last.


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