Why is Pokemon GO-ing Strong?
Pokemon has come back with the power of 90’s nostalgia to take over the world. This time, however, you don’t need a Game Boy or a link cable - you need only an Android phone and the internet to get swept by the latest mobile gaming craze
It’s been less than a week since the release of Pokemon Go, and already the mobile game is becoming a worldwide sensation. Developed in partnership between the Pokemon Company and Niantic, Inc., the app is available for both iPhone and Android smartphones. The game utilizes an “augmented reality” system, where the virtual world of Pokemon is superimposed upon real map data provided by Google. Players explore their locale in order to seek out Pokemon that randomly appear on their map.
As soon as they encounter a Pokemon, the phone switches on its camera, and Pokemon is rendered atop the real world (though you can turn off the augmented reality function if you so wish). Various landmarks also take on meaning in the game’s world. A local deli might turn into a “PokéStop” where players can collect items to aid them in their journeys. Or a nearby church might become a “Gym,” a site over which players battle, competing for dominance and bragging rights.
Only two days after its US launch, Pokemon Go already had more installs than Tinder (the mega-popular dating app), and almost as many daily users as Twitter. Praise is flooding in from every corner of the internet as people pour onto the streets in search of the virtual creatures. In particular, there has been a huge response from more sedentary folk, who cite the game as motivation to get out and get cardio workouts.
Unlike other Pokemon games, walking around in the real world is necessary. Not only must players explore to find new Pokemon, but eggs containing Pokemon can only hatch after the player walks a certain number of kilometers. Users have even taken to Twitter to speak of how the game has dramatically improved their mental health.
The game is also making unprecedented strides in making mobile games more social. Players around the country are posting photos online of chance encounters with other players. In well-populated areas, it’s not uncommon for groups of ten or twenty players to crop up at Gyms or hotspots with rare Pokemon. Never before has a game encouraged real-life socialization on such a massive scale. We can only hope this sets a precedent for games to come.
Investors have picked up on the game’s popularity, too. Since the game’s release on July 7th, Nintendo’s stock has risen by more than 50% (as of 7/11). However, the game has had a myriad of issues since its release, with countless players getting locked out of the game during peak usage hours. The concerns with scaling for a user base far larger than Niantic predicted are very real.
Nevertheless, confidence in the game has done nothing but climb. Given the massive popularity of the game, it can only be a matter of time before Niantic resolves the issues. Meanwhile, we’ll be keeping our eyes out for Mewtwo (except when we cross the road – always be aware of your surroundings when playing, kids!)