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How did Pokémon Go become so successful?

Posted by Ben Dickson on Aug 30, 2016 12:00:00 PM
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If you’re like me, you’re fascinated (and somewhat confused or frustrated) by the sudden rise of Pokémon Go (Android, iOS), the mobile game that took the world by storm and conquered the headlines of media outlets for weeks on end. The game has already acquired more than 30 million players and is raking in millions of dollars every day.

So what exactly made Pokémon Go such a sensation? No one can tell for sure, but here are some of the reasons behind the game’s historic success.

Building on the success of a known brand

As a brand, Pokémon had already established a solid fan base after being rolled out in 1995. So it didn’t need to generate much hype before being released, and there were millions of players waiting for it to be shipped to app stores. As has been experienced with other games, tried-and-tested trademarks can give you a head start, especially if you manage to pull off a good production.

But be careful, because using a well-known name can also raise expectations, and not being able to live up to the demands of your hardcore fans can push your app into the endless abyss of app stores.

Fortunately for Pokémon Go, the developers managed to catch the attention of their audience with the right blend of innovation and game mechanics, and created a game that didn’t only appeal to loyal fans of the brand, but also managed to draw millions of other players into its world.


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a totally new concept

The designers of Pokémon Go managed to mingle different technologies unique to mobile devices in a way that hadn’t been tried before. This is not a simple port of a console game to mobile devices. Mobile camera, GPS and Augmented Reality made Pokémon Go a unique experience for the users.

While video games usually rely on quick reflexes and fast finger taps, this is the first game that forces players to do some physical exercise and requires them to go exploring outdoors, hunting for monsters. This actually promotes a healthy lifestyle while also offering the fun you’d expect from a mobile game.

Meanwhile, the game has managed to attract players from all walks of life and isn’t limited to hardcore Pokémon fans. In fact, figures show that female Pokémon Go players are outnumbering male ones by a very large margin, a success that is reminiscent of the Centipede days.

The concept has come under question, specifically on how playable it will be in winter and the fact that it requires the full attention of the player as opposed to other games that can be played in distracted environments. Pokémon Go has also been the reason behind some unfortunate incidents, including a player crashing a car into school while playing, and two players falling off a cliff while being distracted by the game. However, statistics and figures show that the model has been met with huge welcome and is continuing to rise.

It’s still too early to determine whether Pokémon Go will continue to enjoy the success it’s seen in the first month since its release, but for the moment it looks like players can’t get enough of it.

impeccable monetization strategy

Pokémon Go makes terrific use of the microtransaction model and its monetization strategy makes it appealing to both moderate and hardcore gamers. The game is free to install and play with no strings attached, which means everyone can get a taste of the game that’s been the buzzword of summer vacations without spending a dime.

Users who are in a rush to unlock the goodies that the game has to offer and aren’t patient enough to spend hours playing the game and gaining levels can pay a small sum to buy virtual goods. Of particular interest is the “Lure” module, which attracts Pokémons to your location. Shop owners are purchasing Lure modules to improve their business, as this pizzeria has experienced.

social element

Aside from being fun, Pokémon Go has become a social media platform of sorts. The blend of virtual and real world elements along with teaming features virtually allow for unlimited gameplay. The social element is more than just interacting with people through a user interface. You actually have to meet up and start scavenging for monsters together, which adds an unprecedented element of adventure to the game.

Video games are historically criticized for distancing people from the society. But Pokémon Go is a game that urges you to go out and engage with your community, and PokeStops and Gyms are becoming regular hangout locations.

the dawn of a new gaming landscape?

There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the rising success of Nintendo’s Pokémon Go. As opposed to other successful mobile games that invested on very simple designs, Pokémon Go actually had a complicated design, but one that was easy to play and made possible by applying the right ingredients, mechanics and social elements.

The complete innovative method of gameplay that Pokémon Go introduced will likely change the mobile gaming landscape forever. Expect clones and wannabes to sprout very soon. But who can replicate the stunning success of Pokémon Go? Only time can tell. 

What's your take on Pokémon Go's mega success? Please share your thoguhts in the comments.

Topics: Insider

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