It’s in the news. It’s in your social media feeds. It’s probably already in your phone. Pokémon GO hasn’t even been officially released in some countries and yet it’s already ingrained in pop culture. While it’s early to call it a success, the app’s use of the IP and central gameplay design around your phone has led to it being a massive talking point, not only in the video game industry, but making national and international news.
For those not in the know, Pokémon GO is the result of a collaboration between Nintendo, Niantic, GAME FREAK and The Pokémon Company. The idea stemmed from an April Fool’s joke by Google in 2014, and then eventually started to become reality when Tsunekazu Ishihara, the President of The Pokémon Company and Satoru Iwata, the late President of Nintendo, approved of the idea.
Niantic was previously a part of Google, where they created Ingress, a location-based mobile title that worked on Android phones. This is the foundation of Pokémon GO. Eventually Niantic was spun-off from Google as their own start up, and then with funding from Google, Nintendo and The Pokémon Company, started making Pokémon GO a reality.
But just how has the game attracted so much attention, merely days after it has released?
Share Share Share!
Social media is a performance, we’re all enamoured in sharing how we’re doing and what we’re up to. Tasked with catching them all, everyone’s updating on the Pokémon they’ve caught, the best locations and the people they’ve met on their travels. I haven’t seen advertisement for the app, but in all honesty it doesn’t need it. Everyone’s uploading pictures of Pokémon in locations far and wide, in streets, parks, kitchens, toilets, baseball games, schools, coffee shops, etc. It’s advertising itself. Just like Miitomo’s Miifoto function, this could prove to be the app’s saving grace in the unlikely event that the gameplay elements fall short.
Great Trailers That Feast on Nostalgia
For the first time, The Pokémon Company ran a Super Bowl advert earlier in the year, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Pokémon. Before that, the Pokémon GO reveal trailer was widely praised and received millions of views. Pokémon never left the public consciousness, the main installments in the series continue to sell millions of copies, but these trailers capitalised on the nostalgia and the staying power of Pokémon in popular culture.
The Age Old Question
Pokémon never went away. The series evolved, added new Pokémon, new gameplay ideas, and the latest games, Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon are releasing later in the year. But Pokémon GO acts as the answer to the question that has been in every Pokémon player’s mind, “What if Pokémon was real?”. This is as close as we’re likely to ever get.
Free To Play
There’s no barrier for entry to Pokémon GO. There’s no need to spend hundreds of dollars on hardware and software. No additional controllers to get used to. Just download on a phone and Pokémon is just a few taps away. That’s hugely appetising for a lot of people, casual and core Pokémon fans, and non-video-game players.
Let’s Be Honest, The World Feels Awful Right Now
There’s a lot of apathy around at the moment. Pokémon, for at least everyone under 30, allows them to take their attention away from awful current affairs, and instead meet up with other players, face-to-face. Driving around finding fictional monster is healthier than drinking, right?
It’s All About The Fun
Satoru Iwata had several philosophies he led Nintendo with, but perhaps the most important one, was that he believed games should be fun for everyone. Games shouldn’t just cater for current players, but new ones. By being free to play and on mobile, Pokémon GO has opened itself to be anyone’s playmate. There’s a childlike innocence in watching thousands upon millions of people pretending they’re on a quest to catch them all, seeing friendly or rival trainers, battling gym leaders.
It’s joyful, and most importantly, it’s fun.