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.