So I’ve spent a good proportion of the weekend stalking Pidgees and Spearows and, despite myself, I can see what all the fuss is about.
I was all set to dismiss Pokemon Go as a fad for kids, bandwagon hoppers and nostalgia seekers (the game has been a huge hit with players in their thirties, who played the original Pokemon card game as children). But, crushed by hype myself, and in the noble name of research, I dutifully downloaded the app and – well, it’s good. I mean, it’s in no way walk-off-a-cliff good, but it certainly hits a sweet spot with its combination of novelty and nostalgia.
But is it worth the hype?
There are reports of Pokemon Go (PG) being the fastest downloaded app in history, with the most active users, and the first mobile game to break the $4 billion per year wall. Could anything really live up to that all-consuming level of hype?
If you try and cut through all the noise surrounding it, however, you can see that the game has undoubtedly succeeded where others have failed: delivering a mobile game experience that has to be on a mobile device. i.e. in order to participate, you actually need to get out and about to find and catch the creatures.
What makes it especially attractive, particularly for those who’d consider themselves non-gamers, is that PG incentivizes things you would probably be doing anyway: walking the dog, taking the kids to school, trespassing in your neighbor’s back garden… Once you start collecting the critters it easily turns into a compulsion – and this is where the monetization model kicks in. Gamers can buy in-game virtual goods – Pokecoins – to enhance gameplay.
What’s the impact on operators?
Marketing: While the success of PG has network implications, there are short-term marketing opportunities to be had by riding on the back of such a wildly popular game. In the US, for example, T Mobile has exempted the app from subscribers’ data caps for the year (in spite of new net neutrality rules). Meanwhile, competitor Sprint said its retail locations would include “lures” to attract game users, as well as free charging stations and game “experts.”
Competitive threat: Despite the hoo ha over Niantic Labs, the game’s developer, gaining access to Android users’ entire Google accounts (a mistake that appears to have been patched), millions have continued downloading and playing the game. . PG uses and stores GPS location data, and users must agree that the Pokemon Company reserves the right to share this information with third parties. It seems obvious that the marketing opportunities which could arise from legally tracking the precise movements of millions of people at all times are potentially tremendous, to say the least. This is potentially a long-term threat to operators who are hoping to cash in on their own extensive customer insights – either by launching their own services, or with partners. Apps like Pokemon Go – and there will certainly be others in its image – could eat away at the viability of these new models, if operators don’t act fast to bolster their competitive advantage in this space.
IoT Opportunity: On the other hand, PG has done operators a huge favor. It has proved the explicit value in real time, location-based marketing – an area where operators undeniably have the competitive edge and existing capabilities. PG’s monetization model is still fairly pedestrian but, since the game’s mechanics require players to travel to specific locations, sponsored locations are poised to become a massive revenue opportunity. In this instance operators could act as the middle-man, automating the onboarding of new businesses, and potentially helping them to partner with others in the PG eco-system to create personalized and micro-targeted services for PG users.
As the digital revolution hurtles by it is often hard to discern the fads from the Facebooks. It won’t be until the shrieking levels of fandom around PG have died down that we will have any idea of where the app really fits in, and what impact it will have – beyond a cultural talking point. But if it’s not a game changer, it’s certainly been a pioneer in fixing together AR, GPS and, of course, the Pokemon brand to create an app that even a game-hater like me can enjoy!