I am guessing it may be too late to let you know what “Pokemon” is. It’s been so huge during the past few weeks that it seems impossible for anyone to not know even the basics. If anything, you probably know that this is some game about catching some creatures called “Pokemon” that has people running around in the streets getting hit (or almost) by cars or falling into the sea, etc.
Well, Pokemon is primarily a TV series and a brief history of it can be found here. It’s actually a media franchise managed by The Pokémon Company, a Japanese consortium between Nintendo, Game Freak and Creatures. It’s about some trainers that capture Pokemons in the wild, training them and leveling them up while at the same time they battle each other for sport.
In Greece, we were introduced to Pokemon on April 1st, 1997 (somewhat of an April’s fool I guess). I was fourteen (14) at the time and a little too old to get obsessed (no offense), but my brother who was nine (9), was captivated! He watched the series and even knew all the Pokemons of this generation by heart, including their evolutions (info: each pokemon evolves into a more badass version of the previous, with three evolution stages usually).
Pokemon as a brand kept on evolving as well since then. It was featured in games, in a movie and so on. It has “raised” and affected quite a big chunk of the 7-8-9-10 year olds of 1995-1997 and even later, reaching quite a global impact. Memories are crucial and memories link to childhood, that links to nostalgia that links to your wallet. Or something like that…
Pokemon Go is the introduction of Pokemon into the world of Augmented Reality (AR). AR is when you get the real world and you augment it by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. Pokemon Go did exactly that, and although it was not the finest gaming moment (lots of bugs and issues still), the concept and the Pokemon franchise, along with the memories, etc. have made it an instant hit.
Pokemon GO is the best example of a half-baked product, or a Minimum Viable Product or a Minimum Working Product if you want, that you can find. It’s not working as it should, but it’s enough to get out there, get your first users (millions actually) and then look at things like responsiveness, lagging, connectivity issues, etc. I downloaded it on my phone and was ready to uninstall it, cause it would not accept my username due to some problems with the connectivity (did not choose a common name, but rather a complicated one to avoid having other users with the same name). It also doesn’t have a checker to see if your desired name is available. And it makes sense to not have one, if it means more work before launching the actual thing.
But all of the aforementioned anger got away once I caught glimpse of my first Pokemon! I couldn’t care less even for the camera of my Lenovo not working as it should with AR. It was enough that I had found one and that I was ready to catch it! I mean, having no AR in a game that is based on AR, is kind of a problem for a user. Not for me! It was completely irrelevant, and to this moment, two days after installing, I still use it without AR and it’s OK!
The game itself, as I pointed out already, doesn’t seem as much. It’s easy to use (check), it’s fairly straight-forward with a short learning curve (check) and it’s exciting in the sense that it gives you your collection (!) of your own Pokemons, which is addictive for any obsessive compulsive out there that thrives on collecting anything from bottle caps to t-shirts, etc. It links to your childhood and it’s an open ended experience in the sense that the game evolves as you go through it, with no pre-defined outcomes for all the players. It’s a rather unique experience for each player (or so it seems to be, which is enough as well).
I am guessing that more is under way, cause the storyline of the series is enough to play with and create an even more engaging experience. I could only assume (if it’s not in there already) that you will be able to create teams just like the protagonists of the series created, you will be able to unlock secret pokemons on site, or on specific occassions, like a night with a full moon when the X Pokemon appears, or near rivers, etc. Think of the geographical data they have at hand and you can imagine some of the possibilities! I really liked the fact that most churches (this data layer of all the ones available on a map) are used as “Pokespots” where you can find pokeballs and eggs and other goodies!
Living in Greece where you get a church every 300-400 meters in a straight line, I think that we have an advantage over the other Pokemon trainers globally. I am not sure yet, but this thing could as well be a new “Second-life” kind of thing. I only hope that CVs won’t include “Pokemon Trainer” as a skill of any kind! Pokemon Go also seems to actually socialize some people, at least in countries where you are not afraid to show your expensive mobile phone to a stranger..! Connecting people to talk about Pokemons… I know, it sounds silly and it probably is, but the result may just as well justify the means here.
Thinking of Pokemon Go or similar games as a tool or as a data source is what I am interested in, primarily. Imagine a specific touristic destination that can partner with Pokemon Go so that they “plant” a rare Pokemon there for X days in August. Nice? What? You really don’t think that people would travel there to catch the Pokemon? Really? Give it some time and you’ll see. Remember what you did to find this last Panini sticker with your favorite footballer on it? Almost anything. Now that you also have your own money, it’s even worse!
Or how about the fact that the Pokemon Go fellas will have detailed data on your daily movement, as you voluntarily open GPS in order to catch Pokemons? How can this data be combined/mapped to businesses in an area that can also offer services to the Pokemon hunters/trainers? Or how about making your business a Pokemon rest area, or a virtual gym? How about that for an advertisement, instead of the classic Facebook adds?
And then maybe you could also organize a Pokemon hunt that involves Pokemons in specific landmarks which can only be caught if, let’s say, the user answers a quiz correctly, after having learned a thing or two about the place. That’s the educational side, and it’s usually less fun, but it’s also an option.
Pokemon seems like a landslide at the moment, one with no specific end and with a steep slope. We all slide down and we will see how this ends. Nonetheless, I am not saying that all of this is hurting our privacy, etc. It’s a concern but I am not demonizing this. I am just thinking out loud about the implications and the potential of giving out our data like that, based on a childhood memory primarily. How childhood can be a key to business intelligence in ways that other efforts have failed to engage their audience.
Let’s wait and see!
PS: The Pokemons called within the article are my favorite ones! I said that I was not obsessed with it, but I did have my favorite ones!