What have you learned so far from Pokémon GO regarding app engagement/gamification?

Viewed 889 times Updated on July 26, 2016 in Marketing Tools
MobileBridge — Marketer
3 889 on July 18, 2016

So the whole world is turning upside down. Did you see that Central Park clip the other day? From a reality that turned augmented, this is arguably the most successful AR app right now on the market.

What did you, or your business learn, from Pokemon’s success?

This is what we learned so far…2

However, we only scratched the surface in terms of this app, because I just started playing with the APK version in Amsterdam, but would especially like to hear from USA/UK/NZ/AU users who have the full version of this app…

Cheers and look forward to your comments !!:smiley:

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Mobile Growth Community — Product Manager
2 on July 19, 2016

Hi Kate,

As a lifelong fan of Pokemon with 9 years of academic and corporate experience in VR and AR technology, PokemonGo should have been a dream come true.  

I was actually one of the first Beta testers, playing the game for a full month before it was released (they deleted my entire account a week or so before the US release 🙁 ). 

There is a lot of hype attributing its success to being an AR game, but a lot of people seem to be missing some core details: 

  • This is not the first AR game of its kind. It’s actually a complete re-skin of their first game, Ingress. That game did fairly well, but it didn’t have the story that drives people to go out in the world that Pokemon does.
  • “To catch them is my real test, to train them is my cause…I will travel across the land, searching far and wide.” is part of the Pokemon theme song. The whole concept/world/story revolves around walking around everywhere looking for Pokemon and catching them.  It fits perfectly with the game.
  • This generation dreams and lives nostalgia– and is now at a prime spending age– enough money to make a living, and many without families/ children to care for. Think of all the throw backs that are resurfacing right now? Star Wars, Full House, Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, Pokemon.
  • At my previous AR/VR companies, people saw the technology as a solution. However, this is a fatal flaw. It may work for a short period of time as novelty still plays a part, but for long term success and adaption, good content is key. Good AR is when people don’t even realize they are using AR. Do you think a majority of players understand that they’re using an advance computer vision technology? No. They just see  their world and their friends and Pokemon. Snapchat does the same with its filters. It’s not AR, that’s too advance. It’s just me and an animation.

In terms of Pokemon GO and its marketing tactics, most of the marketing is done for it by attaching itself to the Pokemon brand.  However a few other methods/ theories that come up are: 

  • Using inconsistency and breaks in knowledge to garner free word of mouth:
    • Go online and you’ll read so many articles and about tips and tricks for PokemonGo. How do you get an Eevee to evolve into the one you want? What do the foot prints mean? What is CP and what does it entail?
    • The inconsistency is taking what is known in the original games — that an Eevee evolves with the proper stone– and turning it upside down (random?! but maybe if I play with the names…). People end up all over the internet discussing theories
    • CP (Combat Power). In the original Nintendo games, there were several factors that went into how good a Pokemon was in battle. Its speed strength and accuracy were all laid out for you. In Go, it’s all combined into one metric that is rather confusing. This gets people to keep playing to figure out what it’s about to get an advantage. And of course they talk about it. To their friends and online to the world
  • Addiction through constant competition
    • Level up. Fight. Get defeated. There are small, constantly changing leaderboards all over in the form of Gym. They are the only way to get recognition, and the recognition feels super wide, while being super local.
    • Most people don’t have a huge advantage over others. There is always a feeling of just a little more and I can be better. So people keep coming back  
  • A way to capture tokens so even the least familiar can join  
    • The AR part comes in handy here. How many people have you seen who know nothing about pokemon, but want to take a picture with the cute animal on screen? 
    • There is no traditional sharing, trading, posting to social media etc. People have to take a picture and then upload it. Could it be that making it more difficult to share makes people only want to share “good content” and therefore invest more time in making this content aka playing the game? It’s an Instagram approach.  


I could probably write a lot more. My friends both in marketing and who like pokemon constantly talk about whether or not Niantic thought about these things, or that they happened completely by fluke and they’re riding it out. Let me know if you think it’s even helpful. 

MobileBridge — Marketer
on July 21, 2016

Hey Amanda,

Thank you for putting the time to write this! It’s really neat that you were one of the first beta testers + your experience in AR/VR. Sweet. Although, they erased your profile info and you had to start from scratch again? 🙁

Agreed!! “This generation dreams and lives nostalgia– and is now at a prime spending age– enough money to make a living, and many without families/ children …” I’m right smack dab in the middle of the millennial, 1990 born, so touche!

Your community/word of mouth theory – spot on! How the internet is bubbling with discussions about tactics/strategy to playing/understanding the game even better, despite inconsistenties 

However, you wrote “people saw the technology as a solution. However, this is a fatal flaw, It may work for a short period of time as novelty still plays a part, but for long term success and adaption, good content is key.
I’m interested in hearing more about this. So do you think Pokemon will ever get old too? I mean engaging/retaining its users consistently in the next coming years will be a challenge, despite that more users spending more time on it than any other massive social app, things could change quickly, no? I know this is another discussion, but you had me thinking.

In any case, although the average brand could never compete with the popularity of Pokemon, and not even Twitter, TInder, etc. can right now, I just wanted to put out there some gamification elements that Pokemon offers which could be applied in other brand apps, depending on their value prop.

PS: When I had the Ingress app, I had a little funeral for my battery life, RIP 😛
that was seriously my main reason why i never used it lol, same with SnapChat. ANy tips on saving my poor little battery? 😛

Mobile Growth Community — Product Manager
on July 26, 2016

Hi Kate,

Yes I do believe that Pokemon can get old. One of the things the brand does fairly well is time its release. If we had a new Pokemon game every month, people would have been jaded quickly. There were years in between the games. Think of the TV show, they followed each season so quickly with a new one with new creatures that people dropped off more quickly (most people only have an affinity for the generation they grew up with; my friend who is a 5th grade teacher constantly hears complaints about these “old pokemon” they don’t know in the game).


My comment however was on Augemented Reality. In the industry, those most familiar with it referred to it as a visualization tool. The technology in and of itself, didn’t really solve human problems. It was how it was applied. The companies we saw most successfully using AR were not touting themselves as the amazing advance company with this new thing, they were using it as if it were a normal part of every day life. For instance, no one thinks anything of the lines we see on (American) footballs fields– the first down line that randomly appears. This is AR technology. It’s so wonderfully used that no one thinks twice about it. 


In terms of battery life, this and processing power are two of the things holding back AR and VR technologies. There are chips being developed that will help alleviate this, but the chip industry is slow to progress, at least on the consumer level. In PokemonGo, turning off the AR mode (in battle,/ catching mode, top right toggle) and setting it to battery save move is the only thing that I can think of now. And having an external. 




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