Nintendo’s Pokémon made a dramatic comeback with the launch of its mobile application Pokémon Go on the 6th of July 2016. Just when everyone thought that Pokémon had fallen off the radar to the realm of 90’s nostalgia; the game skyrocketed in popularity within days of its live beta, let alone it’s staggered launch. Many servers crashed with the sheer volume of players (UK), and to this day, some countries are still geoblocked from the game for fear of further outages (e.g. Sri Lanka).

Within a month the game had a 100 million downloads, more active daily users than twitter, and had people spending more time on the app than they did on Facebook. Pokemon Go has facilitated social interactions, promoted exercise, sparked new interest in local landmarks, increased customers for cafes, bars, and pizza restaurants (especially ones making use of in-game “Lures” that attract Pokémon, and thereby people) and created various business opportunities for companies. Ranging from capitalising on the in-game features, to the potentially sponsored placements of Pokémon related things.

The Pokémon Go game uses a phone’s GPS and clock to detect where and when the phone owner is in the game and makes Pokémon “appear” around them on their phone screen so they can go and catch them. As the phone owner moves around, various types of Pokémon will appear depending on one’s location and time.

Several elements have contributed to Pokémon Go’s rapid success. Pokémon Go largely plays off of the Nostalgia of the 90’s era brand by reawakening an entire generation of aspiring Pokémon masters, who are now adults (73% of users are between the ages of 18-24). Furthermore, the games creator Niantic, had over 5 years of experience with a similar game called Ingress which was created by using Google’s digital mapping service. Pokémon Go was created from the modification and re-skinning of Ingress’ database. The fact that almost everyone in the target market has and knows how to use a network-connected smart phone was an added advantage. The game also managed to perfectly intersect reality and virtual reality by planting the digital world firmly in the real world, adding virtual elements to everyday reality.

The success of Pokémon Go is significant for Augmented Reality (AR) for a number of reasons: Although Pokémon is not the first company to try AR, it is the most visible & biggest breakthrough effort recorded so far. More importantly, the game did not require any additional (usually expensive) equipment like a headset, demonstrating that AR can traverse into the mainstream on devices people already have. By making AR more accessible and cheaper, the app has reeled in people who would not have been aware of or have tried AR resulting in mass market consumer awareness for the industry. Allowing people to make the connection that just using their camera and an overlay, they can augment reality. Albeit for under 6 inches of screen-space, as opposed to Hololens-level field of view (FOV).

The success of Pokémon Go and other AR apps like Snapchat has shown that there is a huge user appetite for the technology. In fact, the market for AR, VR (Virtual Reality), and MR (mixed reality) is expected to continue growing rapidly. With an increased demand on smartphones, tablets, and a foray of head-mounted displays (HMDs), coupled with enhanced VR and AR applications from end-users /dev’s in various sectors. Applications that are likely to be evermore common as some systems are caught up on their pre-order backlog & now hitting retail, while others are finally releasing SDK’s but at astronomical prices.

The global market for both virtual reality and AR is estimated to reach more than $105 billion by 2020, up from a mere $8 billion last year (BCC Research). AR is gearing up to be a powerful tool for businesses, famously already working its way into cutting edge factories for engineers. Or even for the supreme tech support service…

As newly converted AR fans start seeking out other AR apps and deeper immersion, it should feed the positive feedback-loop of AR supply & demand. Hopefully serving as a gateway through which a whole demographic can step into VR more easily.

High demand for data packages and increased battery life have provided a lot of opportunities for Telecom providers and smartphone vendors. While Mobile operators, can also expect to enjoy a tremendous increase in internet use from Pokémon Go, providers in some countries are offering data packages specially tailored for playing the game. Smartphone vendors should enjoy immense opportunities from the popular game that requires users to own a phone with an advanced operating system with fast speeds. On top of that, the battery power draining ability of the app has helped double external battery pack sales as users seek to extend their play time.

Data capture through games such as this has also increased privacy concerns because of the huge amount of information it is able to gather about users; both through conventional app permissions, and GPS tracking, etc. This could increase the need for personalized privacy assistants that can help users manage their smartphone app permissions. For the time being though, there are guides aplenty on how to revoke Pokémon Go’s access to your google account. While a wash with privacy invasion claims, Niantic have stated that they didn’t actually use the full suite of google-tied permissions, only your Google ID and email, and they are working on a fix to bring the list down…
However, this plea sounds a bit fishy, and it seems much more likely that they were testing the waters of what they could get away with regarding data collection.
– In the wake of being thoroughly scorned by privacy advocates and news sites, Niantic are now addressing this.

Although Pokémon Go may turn out to be a fad, the potential of AR has been brought to the limelight and emphasised in a way that has not been done before. We can expect to see AR permeate and change various aspects of our lives in the coming years. It’s an opportunity that is dramatically reshaping the way humans interact with technology. For some of the best examples of this, here’s a few videos:

Iya Ahmad

Iya Ahmed | Associate Marketing Executive
Mitra Innovation