What Pokémon Go can teach us about location-based services

July 15th, 2016

At this stage, I assume few have missed the latest Pokémon craze that has taken the world by storm recently. Originally released on July 6 in the US, Australian and New Zealand markets, the game has quickly become a force to be reckoned with. So what is it and what has it got to do with location?

 

Pokemon-GO-iOS-screenshots

 

First location-based game to hit the mainstream

Pokémon Go is the first location-based smartphone game to go mainstream. The game itself is pretty similar to the original franchise— the player’s goal is to catch and collect Pokémons (a total of 150 different species), train them and battle against other players. The ultimate objective, of course, is to catch ‘em all and become the very best.
However, this time around, you can’t sit on your couch at home and play. Clever game mechanics encourage you to stroll around in the physical world—streets, parks, and public spaces—to catch Pokémons. As you walk around in the real-world, your avatar in the game will follow as you move (using GPS and Google Maps) looking for Pokémons to catch. Players can also gather near certain points-of-interest, like churches and statues, and whip out their Pokémons in a battle against other players in designated “gyms.”

Accounts are already flooding in about how the game is transforming people’s lives. Some who never exercise now happily walking more than five miles every day while playing the game. A middle-aged white man who befriends two black men at 3 a.m. in a park. People who stumble upon new friendships through the game. Even people planning dates around playing Pokémon Go! The social impact of this seemingly simple game should not be underestimated.

Record-breaking popularity

Google Play data offers some compelling insights into just how popular this game has become in a matter of days. After two days, the new Pokémon game was installed on more Android phones than the popular dating app Tinder. As of today, a week after the release, an estimated 20 million people are playing the game, and that’s just in the US.

 

vs-tinder

 

And when it comes to engagement, the game is breaking records as well. In just a few days, the daily active users have soared. In a matter of hours, the game was approaching Twitter in number of daily active users. And the average session time puts it way ahead of popular apps such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and others.

 

v-twitter

 

The Internet is flooded with images of the game. As you can see below, Twitter users are reporting massive crowds of people gathering at in-game points-of-interest to play.

 

So what can it teach us about Location-based services?

In one way, this craze is like a peek into the future. The popularity of Pokémon Go shows us that the power of location can be harnessed. Through a balanced combination of social, location and gaming, app developer Niantic has nudged millions and millions of people to go outdoors, socialize with other players, and experience a game by exploring the world around them. All this, in just a matter of days. What this shows us is the inherent potential of these factors.

Social, location and gaming are three strong factors, but even more important is the execution. It’s not the first game of its kind, but it proves what can be done with the right approach. My best guess is that Pokémon Go will act as a starting signal for an outpouring of similar games and services. As the popularity grows, more and more companies and app developers will wake up to the opportunity of entertaining people with the use of location.

What’s stopping shopping malls and other large indoor spaces from incorporating social, location and gaming to delight their app users? Nothing really. We all know that entertainment is a way to engagement and retention. If a combination of location, social and gaming can act as a catalyst for change in this way, it’s a testimony that these services can be built for mass-market, mainstream consumers today. Chances are this is only the beginning of a global obsession with Pokémon, and the many apps to come, that use location and social to entertain and engage people worldwide.

Author

anton tyrbergAnton Tyrberg
Channel Marketing Manager at Senion