Pokémon Go: How Gaming Became More Social Than… Social

Pokémon Go: How Gaming Became More Social Than… Social

By Andrew Hudson

Pokémon Go isn’t even officially released in UK territory yet. Despite that, a wild Gastly on our lower floor is cause for office-wide furore. With a dizzying number of users already scouring towns and cities, coming together and sharing experiences on a global scale, have Nintendo used their two-decade-old franchise to upend the social media landscape in just a matter of days? We’ve talked gamification before, but this is unknown territory.

Quick history. Nintendo all but invented gaming on the go (ah, sweet Game Boy memories), but shunned mobile smart phone apps. Limp attempts at social integration with the Wii and DS console lines preceded an eventual submission to mobile in 2016. Miitomo, Nintendo’s first mobile app released earlier this year, received a high volume of downloads but little use thereafter.

Enter Pokémon Go. Within three days of its release the app was reportedly downloaded to more than 5% of all Android devices in the US… and 3% of the US’ entire Android user base were actively using it. This means it’s more popular than Tinder and garners more active users than Twitter; is “catching ‘em all” supplanting people’s need for making romantic connections or partaking in online conversation?

The game’s extraordinary uptake can be measured on the very social platforms it’s surpassing. According to Brandwatch, more than 4.5 million mentions of the game have created a gargantuan 5.9 billion impressions. Pretty huge.

People are reportedly converging in droves to hunt Pokémon together – actually meeting up, outside – to play and catch in the company of others.  Pokémon Go resembles an augmented reality MMO where interaction actually occurs in the real world, inciting new forms of social experience on a mass scale. This makes it enormously powerful – and potentially lucrative.

Nintendo are famously precious with their IP, but when this dip of the toe into the mobile / social space helps the company’s market value soar by more than $9 billion, shareholders are almost certain to demand that Nintendo pursue the opportunities laid out for them.

Imagine this: a popular coffee chain partners with Nintendo to facilitate Pokéstops where exclusive pocket monsters can be encountered, or to become a gym, which can be held by individuals or one of the three “teams” – Mystic, Valour or Instinct – for special, in-game prizes. Or a high street fashion outlet becomes a hotspot for exclusive clothing or accessory options for in-game characters.

The Pokémon universe is huge – over 720 of the titular monsters (so far) means 720 potential reasons to prompt user interaction with brands in real life, without interrupting the on-screen experience.

When developers Niantic overcome the server issues that have stalled the game’s global release, expect the figures above to grow astronomically – especially in the game’s native Japan. Then comes the challenge outlined above: how to monetise.

Got your own thoughts or features you’d like to see on Pokémon Go? Any advice on where to catch some legendaries? Let us know @mycleveragency.

This post was written by Andrew Hudson

Andrew is myclever™ Agency's copywriter. Like all great writers, he's sensitive, deeply introverted and has a diehard penchant for knitwear.