Let's begin talking about Pokemon Go by first looking at the numbers. In just under a week since its release, it has already surpassed Twitter in terms of daily active users (on Android, in the US). By July 8, just two days since its release, more people have downloaded Pokemon Go on Android in the US then the highly popular dating app Tinder.
SimilarWeb, the company that revealed this study also says that by July 8, Pokemon GO saw an average time spent per day of 43 minutes and 23 seconds, a whopping 13 minutes higher than WhatsApp and higher than other popular social networking apps like Instagram, Snapchat and FB Messenger.
Impressed? Well, then further consider that the game has not even released in all countries yet and is just available in 3—the US, Australia and New Zealand. The success of the game has not gone unnoticed by investors. Nintendo, the company that owns the rights to the Pokemon Franchise as well as stakes in actual developers Ninatic, which was spun off from Google last year, and The Pokemon Company, which also sees Google as a stakeholder, saw its shares skyrocket within two days of the game's release by almost 53 per cent and adding market value gain of nearly $7.5 billion, according to reports in Reuters and other publications.
What's the fuss about?
In 2014, Google ran an April Fool's joke asking users to apply for the role of Pokemon Master by capturing Pokemon in the real world using their phones camera and Google Maps. The idea seems to have taken hold in someone's imagination and two years down the line the world (or some parts of it for now) received Pokemon Go, a GPS-fuelled scavenger hunt that uses principles of social gaming and augmented reality to create a truly immersive experience.
The basic concept, which the franchise's tagline so succintly puts, is to "Gotta catch 'em all", the all being the titular Pocket Monsters or Pokemon. Where it takes an interesting turn is by incorporating real-world locations into the mix. So, your local coffee shop might turn out be a Gym, a place where users converge (quite literally) to challenge other users' Pokemon for glory (and experience points).
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(Caption: Pokemon GO players at NYC's Central Park to hunt for Pokemon)
Video courtesy: The Indpendent
Here, developer Ninatic is drawing from its experience with earlier titles which used a similar concept. The developer is inviting local businesses to nominate themselves as in-game hubs where players can challenge others or look for exotic Pokemon and other rewards. One can imagine the opportunities this creates for local businesses if the Go can sustain the hype and interest for a prolonged period.
But this is definitely not the only opportunity available.
"They've (the developers) reinvented one of the most popular games that the 90's kid loved. They've reinvented the traditional treasure hunt and given it a modern twist and it's a revolution that sure is seeing excellent acceptance. In-Store and offline marketing is going to benefit most from this game. Furthermore, on-the-go apps can have elements like discount vouchers and goodies that can be unlocked within the game itself. Innovation in augmented reality is on the rise and plenty of brands can learn from and adopt interesting ways to engage their consumers," says Randal Gomes, Creative Lead at Mindshift Interactive.
Since the time of Zynga's pathbreaking game, Farmville, brands have realized the potential that gaming possesses. Highly popular games like Clash of Clans and Angry Birds have become formidable brands riding on their popularity, something that advertisers have excepted if the number of brand tie-ins and in-app advertising is anything to go by.
A report by Research & markets, says that the social gaming market in the US to grow at a CAGR of 19.63 per cent over the period 2014-2019. Deloitte Global has predicted that in 2016 mobile (smartphone and tablet) will become the leading games platform by software revenue, generating $35 billion in revenue up 20 per cent from 2015.
China is a great example of an economy that has embraced mobile gaming . With a strong and savvy smartphone user base, which are also voracious users of social and messaging platforms, the country is expected to see revenues from mobile gaming cross $20 billion in 2016, which will further boost advertising and m-commerce. Japan is another Asia nation that has a thriving mobile ecosystem, including commerce, gaming and engagment.
The potential of Pokemon Go lies in the fact that it incoprorates three of the more promising technologies currently available—geotagging, social engagment and augmented reality. The last of these is still at an early adopted stage. For example, in a earlier interview Arnav Ghosh, MD of Blippar India mentioned the difficulty in explaining the concept to potential clients and getting them to think about the myriad possibilities.
When asked about his thoughts on Go, especially as a platform for marketing, he said, "This is a classical example of how a great idea in augmented reality can bridge the physical and digital world with always on triggers, this infact could help brands to break the traditional funnel and help to own the moment of truth while making engagement more immersive and purchase decision more contextual."
India is still a newbie in the field of gaming, as compared to neighbours Japan and China, and advertising or brand engagement on these platfroms is usually limited to brand specific games, especially for new film releases and in-game static ads. Though, to be fair there have been some notable examples like Oreo and Godrej.
Arpit Jain, Founder of GreedyGame, a company that specializes in in-game native advertising for brands, agreed that the most interesting feature of Go is that it is one of the few platforms that packs all three technologies in one experience.
"As brands move towards native experiences in games, this unlocks a huge pool of use cases to engage audiences through the experience. It would be interesting to see how they would unlock the options for advertisers who would be interested in deeper level integrations like what Snapchat or Line allow," he said.
It is a commonly accepted fact that advertising is now beocoming more about engagement rather than showing a one-way communication and mobile games, especially those that include social interaction element could be a great way for brands to tell their story while engaging with audiences. At the very least, it might be something interesting to try while having fun.
A reboot of a 20 year old favourite and a game that started off as an April Fool's joke is hardly something that you would expect an advertiser to get excited about. But Pokemon Go's unprecedented popularity, a strong legacy and a unique experience that combines augmented reality, geotagging and a social, make it one of the most intriguing products to come out in a while.