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Pokémon Go – A passing fad or here for the long run ?

20 July 2016 | Gary Houlihan | About a 6 minute read
Tags: app development, augmented reality, fads, harlem shake, Mobile, Mobile Development, mobile gaming, Pokemon go, Trending, trends, virtual reality


“A fad or trend or craze is any form of collective behaviour that develops within a culture, a generation or social group and which impulse is followed enthusiastically by a group of people for a finite period of time.”

 

I’m weirdly obsessed with fads. One of the (many) odd things I do is sometimes look up fads from the past few years that exploded on social media, and then faded into obscurity never to be heard of again, to see where that person/company is now. Even this year – we’ve all forgotten about Steven Avery from Making a Murderer pretty quickly eh? Kony 2012, The Harlem Shake, Tom from MySpace, Gangnam Style?! The list goes on.

On the technology side of things – we’ve had viral hits like Draw Something and Flappy Bird, to name just two. These viral hits, in most cases get a limited shelf-life, 2 weeks maximum if they’re lucky. Then we move onto the next thing, and the cycle goes on.

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The most viral of all the viral

So this week it’s the turn of Pokémon Go!

First of all, a confession – I haven’t caught the Pokémon Go bug yet. I am still relatively new to it. If you’re interested, I have caught 3 Pokémon (or is it Pokémons?). I am at level 2. I downloaded it nearly a week ago now, and have played it for less than 10 minutes total (a lot of the times I tried to play it, the servers seem to be down). I only tend to open the App when everyone else around me has, or they ask me how many I’ve caught. But I can see the appeal of it, and it’s come at a time when the entire world seems like it needed a bit of a lift. I also think it’s about to change how we interact with our devices and the world around us.

Firstly, I want to talk about why it’s so popular, and I think there’s 3 key reasons for that:

1. It’s building communities of people who are interacting in REAL LIFE!

I have seen strangers on the street actually chatting with other people just because they are using the app. This is something that you don’t get with other so-called “Social Networking” apps, people actually speaking to each other in the real world. The app has no chat feature, but its building communities in public over a shared interest, which is great and exactly the kind of thing we need in the UK right now, as Grace Dent said, it’s the “break from reality we all need”.

There’s been videos of people in Central Park  hunting rare Pokémon, and I’ve just been reading of meet-ups being organised in Trafalgar Square for people to gather and go on hunts together. This will be something app developers will have to consider in the future – how they can build communities through their app, but get people connecting in the real world to further use the app. I’m genuinely waiting for the Daily Mail story of “This couple got married having met playing Pokémon Go” or something along those lines.

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2. It’s getting people moving

The great thing about it is that you can’t play from your couch, because as I type, it is actually 32 degrees celsius outside. You literally have to leave your home to catch Pokémon (this is probably why I am so bad at it), and for the eggs to incubate (just recently discovered I now have to walk 5km for the eggs I found to incubate – cheers for the tip Louis!). But it’s fantastic that people have never been so keen to go outside, even if their heads are stuck in their phones.

I know there have been stories of people walking off cliffs or getting caught up in robberies, but the app does warn people to be vigilant in their quest, and it’s just common sense to not go anywhere that might not be safe and to not walk into traffic. And, if you accidentally walk into a pond due to your head being in your phone, you probably deserve it to be soaking wet. And be careful around the Korean border

3. It’s paving the way for Augmented Reality

The fact that the game play takes place in “real life” only enhances the fact as to why it’s so popular. It’s exciting as to what will come next in this space – there is so much that can be done. It will be interesting to see what companies do in this space, and it’s an exciting prospect for AND Digital. Maybe companies could start offering rewards based on using augmented reality to “collect” vouchers etc? The first to do this could set a trend for others to follow.

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Popping up at the Natural History Museum

 

The next Draw Something or Clash of Clans?

An interesting question is – will Pokémon Go last? Will it go the way of DrawSomething, as in be popular for about two weeks then fade into obscurity, or will it be the next Clash of Clans/Candy Crush/Angry Birds – apps that have had a great shelf life and continue to generate millions for their parent companies (King, the company behind CandyCrush, made $517 million in profit in 2015, which was actually a poor year for them.)

If we look at the app “Draw Something” that spiked in 2012, it’s now struggling big time and looks like an expensive mistake by Zynga who purchased it from OMGPOP just as its popularity exploded. But fans got bored and moved on, unlike games like Clash of Clans and Angry Birds, who have maintained huge download numbers, and generated massive profits – by adding new levels/new spin-off games (there is now 13 Angry Birds games and 3 spin offs)

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Draw Something – Fun for about 2 weeks in 2012

One thing that amazes me about Pokémon Go is that it keeps crashing, and there have been massive server problems, yet it continues to soar in popularity. It will be interesting to see the state of play in two months time and if Nintendo’s share price can soar any further. If I own Nintendo stock, should I cash out now? (I unfortunately don’t)

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A lot of people got a lot richer

A lot of people are also skeptical about the information that we are providing to the app. It knows my location, movements and any images I capture, which of course can be passed on to third parties/law enforcement. It’s basically a mass surveillance tool. It might be worth reading their quite vague privacy policy for those who are worried about their data.

If you’re not, I guess just go out and catch them all! But keep your head up please.

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