The rise and rise of Pokémon-Go…and an inevitable fall?

10 August 2016

Pokémon-Go, an overnight sensation, has become the mobile app of 2016 in just a month. It has attracted millions of players with more than 100M downloads and to date has generated an estimated $200 million in net revenues. It has seen crowds flocking to the streets, taking over roads and even getting into accidents in search of the game’s fictional creatures, but in a more creative use of the app it has also been used to attract criminals to police stations in Virginia!

What is Pokémon Go?


This app, developed by Niantic, makes use of location and GPS Data in a real-time interactive map, and effectively changes tracking capability. The technology allows users to scan their city, drop pins anywhere on their map, and get detailed reports of available Pokémon. Niantic are nailing the use of location technology, so rather than using it as merely a tool to determine your location, the app is driving traffic to specific locations…which creates commercial value.

Businesses such as pubs, cafes, shops and public spaces are now paying the app to have Pokémon’s in their areas, to encourage business. Now if a user can lift their head up long enough to interact with the businesses in the vicinity this is great (this isn’t always the case!). However, where this tactic is particularly effective is when a Pokémon is located within an area with an entrance fee…such as a Zoo. This does raise a moral question though, particularly given the time of year, at the significant expense parents may be forced to incur in the relentless pursuit for Pokémon!


With great power comes great responsibility


However, are Niantic biting off more than they can chew? Shortly after the game was released, glitches resulted in shutting down of key features rather than fixing them. No one expects a perfect technology from day one, and introducing new technology requires fast iterations if you want to be a market leader. Perhaps in this case the company has underestimated the phenomenon and not got a big enough development team in place to cope with the issues.
As soon as your tech gains momentum, competitors will be flocking to catch up. It is important that Niantic moves fast and rectifies the issues– if they don’t perhaps this is just a flash in the pan phenomenon with users abandoning it if experiencing frustrations. And players are likely to be vocal when disappointed, where Pokémon Go has received a two star rating in the App Store, and one-star reviews in the Google Play Store. If they can overcome the issues then this appears to be a more viable long term business.

When launching a product, it’s important to assess: Do we have the right resources in place to cope with it? If the answer is No, it will be detrimental in the long term.

How long will Pokémon-Go hysteria last?


Pokémon-Go has still to launch in the biggest Asian markets: Korea, India and China which should help Niantic gain further growth. It will be interesting to monitor user levels in the established markets to see just how long this app can hold users interest and how the company build on the initial frenzy.

However, what this phenomenon does tell us is the long pursued use of location-based technologies is opening up doors and heading into a new directions. Niantic’s experience in creating location-based social games coupled with world renowned Pokémon use of augmented reality pushes content to users rather than using a user’s location, (relatively passive), and using locations, pulls users to the content (very active). Simple really. It will be interesting to see how other companies now attempt to capitalise on this approach.


Watch this space.


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By Silvia Gatti, Informatics Ventures

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