You must have heard about Pokémon GO. I mean, if you have used any social media channels, accessed any business portal, or even stepped foot in any slightly popular public place in the past couple of weeks, then you must have heard about it. But in case you’ve just got out of whatever hibernation chamber you’ve been living in and have no idea of what Pokémon GO is, I’ll give you a brief.
Pokémon GO is an augmented reality (AR) game developed by Niantic for mobile devices. The game was released in the US, Australia, and New Zealand on July 6th, 2016. Despite the fact that the game was officially released in only three countries on that date, millions (seriously, millions) of people used “alternative” ways to play it all around the globe.
The game is based on the Pokémon franchise (*shocking*) and the main goal for the players is to catch all the 150 little monsters (a.k.a. Pokémon) from the original Pokémon game and that exist in this first version. That’s pretty much the same style of original Gameboy versions, right? Wrong. There is one small detail this time, the players have to catch them in the real world! This is possible thanks to the augmented reality technology in the game, which uses a mix between a map system with real life locations and virtual features that make the little creatures appear on the player’s phone screen as if they were right in front of them in the streets.
OK, now you know what this crazy thing called Pokémon GO is all about, but why is it causing such massive impact all over the world? What is triggering this sort of behaviour from customers? And more important, what can you learn from this phenomenon to leverage your business to grow? Check it out:
1. Taking risks is the price for success
Pokémon is a franchise owned by The Pokémon Company, which is partially owned by the videogames giant Nintendo. Nintendo was facing some big challenges to compete in the domestic consoles market with its Wii U against Sony’ PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One, so they had to come up with an alternative source of income.
Nintendo has been leading the portable games scenario since their first Gameboy was launched decades ago, and leading by far. However, the exponential growth of mobile phone gamers led them to rethink their strategy in the segment. In what is arguably one of the biggest risk-taking actions in the company’s history they decided to launch their franchises on phones two, which could end up jeopardizing their own handheld dominance with the Nintendo 3DS, but they did it anyway and they delegated the production and development of the game to Niantic and they just hoped for the best. As you can see, the decision paid off big time!
2. When innovating, be disruptive
Augmented reality has been around for fairly quite some time now, but this is the first time that it’s really hitting the masses. Several other companies tried to pull off a hat trick by implementing augmented reality into their services somehow, even the almighty Google with its Google Glass took a shot and didn’t succeed. Apparently, augmented reality wasn’t going to get into customers’ hearts and companies pulled off investments in it and started investing in virtual reality instead. You can tell by now that AR wasn’t the problem, innovation was.
AR is an innovation itself, but it’s a mean rather than an end. It’s a mean for people to get more benefit from another activity, in Pokémon GO’s case that activity is entertainment. Pokémon GO managed to deliver an over satisfying experience through AR to customers, and this was the first time this was ever done the right way. Fans were provided with the possibility of crossing the virtual-real barrier and play their beloved virtual game while interacting with their cities in real life, and this can be considered a disruptive innovation since it likely changed the AR scenario for good.
3. Branding, branding, branding
Branding plays a huge role in Pokémon GO’s success. Chances are if another game would’ve been released having exactly the same characteristics of Pokémon GO it would hardly achieve the same results. The Pokémon brand has been carefully nurtured for 20 years by Nintendo. Pokémon fans were treated with massive amounts of new videogames, new little monsters, new cartoon episodes, new card game collections, new toys, and new pretty-much-anything-else related to Pokémon. The fans have an active voice in the franchise’s future and they absolutely love it.
The majority of the people that are playing Pokémon GO are in their mid-late 20’s, and that’s not hard to figure since they are the same fans that originally turned Pokémon into a worldly-known name 20 years ago. Their passion for the game/cartoon was so strong that it remained in them for all this time, and has emerged now with the advent of Pokémon GO. Turning a brand into something that customers love and are loyal to for years and years to come, that should be every company’s goal.
4. Social proof is the new rule
In a society in which no one goes to any restaurant before Yelping it, asking a friend, or hearing about it in social media, social proof has become the new standard when it comes to credibility. Most likely you know a few people (if not a lot) that are totally addicted to Pokémon GO and are playing it night and day. They are on you Facebook feed, in the malls you visit, in the parks, and basically everywhere else, making Pokémon GO one of the greatest examples there is about the power of social proof.
“If everyone else is playing then it must be at least worth trying the game out”. That’s what is triggering the interest of most non-Pokémon fans out there. Most people see the incredible social presence Pokémon GO is having and they automatically see it with positive eyes, especially when they see influencers playing it. The hype naturally (no ads!) created about Pokémon GO is so big that it’s almost impossible to resist downloading the app just to check what the game is all about, and that’s how things start. The best salesperson in the world is a happy customer, and that’s one of the main reasons for why Pokémon GO is spreading across the globe so fast.
5. Reduce the barriers and they will come
Niantic was brilliant on this matter. Pokémon GO is such a simple and easy-to-play game that its learning curve is almost a line (oh, so funny). All players have to do is download it and play it right away. There are no formal tutorials or anything like that because the game simply doesn’t need them. That is a huge incentive for people with all sorts of backgrounds to start and to keep playing the game. It’s just pretty straightforward fun like in the good ol’ days.
Another major point here is that Pokémon GO is free-to-play. That’s right, this globally hyped game is free to download and play from the App Store and Google Play Store. This eliminates the risk on the customers’ perspective since they have literally nothing to lose if they don’t like the game (besides the five minutes it takes to try it out). Customers need to feel comfortable while making the decision to use your product, and eliminating the adoption barriers is crucial for that.
The idea behind Pokémon GO came from an April Fool’s Day prank made by Google (that teamed up with Nintendo and The Pokémon Company to make the prank). In 2014 the search engine company told the world that a real life job called Pokémon Master was being offered by Google. Applicants should access Google Maps to hunt for Pokémon spread out through all sorts of places including, cities, deserts, and forests, but everything was just a joke (you can watch the prank video here). Niantic was owned by Google at the time and they liked that idea very much. Two years later they launched Pokémon GO, a game that broke the record for the most downloads from the App Store and added 7.5 billion dollars to Nintendo’s market value within the first week from its release. Guess who’s laughing now…