Pokemania: What does Pokemon Go mean for the future of gaming?

20 July 2016

Our marketing manager Charlotte had spent the last nine days in sunny Italy, travelling to a tiny Northern part of the country, where she had escaped the turmoil of Brexit resignations, new political  appointments and market fluctuations. However, landing in the late evening, coming home to a remote residential street of Elton, she was shocked to see hoards people roaming the streets in the twilight huddling around their phones. Asking the corner shop owner what was going on, he replied, “they are catching Pokémon.”

But what’s going on? No one plays Pokémon anymore? It is a kids' Nintendo game, with collectable cards, a hobby traditionally for gaming addicts and teenagers. It had a cult following in the 1990s, but this is 2016, and there are adults walking the streets too? One week out of the country and there is more than a new Prime Minister to catch up on.

Pokémon has exploded across the web: there is no other way to describe it than a combustion of Rattatas, Drowsies, Pokestops and incenses, burgeoning from the app into the real world. Quite literally, you can find exotic species of Pokémon in the park, on top of your television, in the doctor's surgery. The incredible thing about the new game is that it augments gaming reality with the real world. The first of its kind to truly blur the boundary between the virtual and the actual world.

A Pokemon I found by my desk

The game works by placing Pokémon all over the world, so that the gamers have to leave their houses and walk to catch the species in their Pokeballs. Rare species can be found in the strangest of places encouraging users to walk further and explore their surroundings. As players collect their Pokémon, they have to wait for them to hatch, and, in order to do this, players have to walk. The game charts your steps, working like a pedometer, common creatures needing about a 2km walk to hatch and rare species requiring players to walk up to 10km in order to hatch.

The average user spends 43 minutes a day walking around catching Pokémon. When considering that typically gamers have a reputation for staying indoors locked away, this change in the method of playing is revolutionary. Forums have sprung up all over the internet and users on Reddit are claiming the game has changed their lives, promoting rapid weight loss and the chance to interact with other gamers outdoors, encouraging new found friendships which before would have only happened behind a screen.

Pokémon Go has literally exploded on the web. Before the game was released in the UK, keen users were hacking into the system to download it. So many players are trying to get on board, the app has crashed multiple times. Launching on 7th July, Pokémon Go has already exceeded America’s 65 million Twitter users and the game is available in 35 countries, more being added by the day.

Pokemon Go is gradually achieving world domination

With the game said to be generating 2 million dollars a day in The U.S., the market is incredibly lucrative. Shares in Nintendo have soared through the roof, seeing gains of more than 100% since the game launched. Turnover in Nintendo shares reached a rocket 703.6bn yen, overcoming the record of 476bn yen it set on Friday for trading turnover in individual shares.

The statistics speak for themselves, the game is a cultural phenomenon. We spoke to WIRED’s product editor and keynote speaker Jeremy White  to discuss what he thinks about the new craze. Being an expert in innovative technology  trends, we thought Jeremey could shed some light on what Pokémon Go means for the future of gaming.

Jeremy said “The popularity of Pokémon Go highlights not only how gaming can use mixed reality to take player involvement to new levels, but also how when companies embrace these new technologies it can transform their business . For example, now, according to Bloomberg, Nintendo is worth more than Sony. This is astonishing. Just two days after Pokémon Go launched, Nintendo increased its value by $7.5 billion. Expect to see a slew of copycat games hitting the market very soon, hoping to enjoy similar financial  gains. However, the smarter brands will build on this momentum and find clever alternative uses for this blurring of VR and the real world - in retail propositions or cultural pursuits, perhaps.”

Pikachu: Electric-type species, best friend of Pokemon trainer Ash

Interestingly, Jeremy predicts a change for the future of gaming now. It is looking likely that the culture of indoor, individual gaming is going to be phased out and now we are going to see a lot more interaction and changes in the way we visually perceive the virtual world, whether this be through 360-degree headsets, or bringing the game outside of the screen.

Gaming expert and entrepreneur Ian Livingstone  agrees that changes are coming for gamers. He praises the industry as a whole for ground-breaking creations. He comments that “the video games industry is always in transition due to constant advances in  technology  bringing new opportunities. Facebook became a huge platform for games, then mobile phones and now VR and AR are the next big things. Pokémon Go has demonstrated the scale of the opportunity when technology facilitates innovation. That is why the video games industry will always be the biggest and most innovative entertainment industry.”

Despite the clear innovations that Ian has pointed out, Jeremy also goes on to comment on the negative aspects of the game and factors that we should be aware of.

“But while the success of Pokémon Go legitimises the mixed reality commercial market, it should also be cause for caution. The disturbing incidences of Pokémon players being lured to muggings while playing the game is just one example showing that, with the power to engage and direct public attention so easily, an increased level of security and responsibility must also be developed when deploying such involving technology.”

Rare species can be found in dangerous locations

Jeremy is right, a rare Mewtwo was found on a motorway in The U.S and countless users flocked onto the busy road to catch it, completely ignoring the danger of the oncoming traffic.

On a lighter note, despite the negatives, the game has caused a lot of positives and hilarious moments. One twitter user captured Justin Bieber in the midst of a crowd in New York’s central park out collecting a rare breed of Pokémon, yet despite being one of the most popular artists of his generation, no one recognised him. This would have been one of the first times Bieber was not the object of a crowd's undivided attention.

Hilary Clinton has cleverly used the craze to encourage voters to register. By turning voter registration stations into Pokéstops, Clinton hopes that players will stop by voter registration centres on their gaming travels and hopefully pause to become politically  active and register to vote too.

A typical Pokemon user screen

Also, tiny remote villages have seen a surge in tourism , since they have become hotspots for Pokémon species. In South Korea, gamers have been congregating to the fishing village of Sokcho as it is the only place in the country where the game works. A New Zealand user was seen kayaking out to the middle of Wellington Harbour to claim a PokeGym for her team. Gamers have become tourists in their own homes, rediscovering beautiful parts of their towns or unexplored outdoor areas.

Whether you are obsessed or incensed by Pokemania, no one can deny Pokémon Go is steadily achieving world domination. Our experts Jeremy  and Ian  have helped us see where the new craze could be leading the gaming industry as a whole. This huge step in innovation combined with how well Pokémon Go has been received proves this is a very exciting time for technology. Gaming trends are set to capture the imagination of more than the usual avid gamers.

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