Pokémon Go, a watershed moment for technology and entertainment disruption

Pokémon Go is the hottest craze for millions of people throughout the world who are roaming around gazing into their smartphone screens with the goal to capture 151 Pokémon. Since its launch July 7th, the game is quickly becoming the most viral mobile application of all time and the biggest mobile game in U.S. history. In 19 days it reached 50 million downloads worldwide and has now topped 75 million in less than a month. And it has not yet been launched in the majority of world’s countries, including India and throughout Asia. People are spending more time in its app than on Facebook. Pokémon Go use now surpasses Twitter’s daily users.

Besides being a major mobile game phenomenon, Pokémon Go is a watershed moment, a true defining chapter in the history of technology. It combines augmented reality, or AR, with the GPS mapping functions and the cameras of smart devices to create a mixed reality experience. Pokémon Go represents one of those moments when a new technology, in this case AR, breaks through from being a niche use by early adopters and goes mainstream. It has also introduced us to the power of AR to connect us to others and our environment in a way no technology has before. It’s most significant impact is that as a new form of interactive entertainment, it has introduced a totally new disruptive technology to the consumer entertainment landscape.

Up until now entertainment options where basically limited to board and card games, 2D screen-based entertainment and games in the home or on the mobile screen, and visits to location-based entertainment venues. What Pokémon Go has done is take video game play off the sofa and out into the real world. In a sense, the entire world has now become a giant 3D game that you are physically in.

The experience of playing the game is so much more engaging and entertaining than playing on a 2D screen. You are no longer confined to a single room to play a video game. Pokémon Go takes you outside to experience the world in a new unique way. The game is free and pokécoin purchases are reasonably inexpensive, especially compared to the cost of attending an entertainment venue. And it is very social at Pokémon Go gym locations where it brings strangers physically together to meet.

Pokémon Go is only the beginning of the mixed reality entertainment options that will be emerging in the near future. It is also the future of how we’re going to interact with computers. In a few years when Magic Leap, Hololens and other AR companies allow us to look through glasses instead of at screens to mix digitally created and real world experiences and to connect with other people, we’ll be looking back at Pokémon Go as a very crude form of augmented reality.

Pokémon Go and future AR experiences will disrupt entertainment venues? Why? Because it has expanded screen-based entertainment and game options into the entire real world. Previously the only mass consumer real world options were available at an entertainment venue. Now out-of-home entertainment is no longer confined to a specific building or a piece of real estate where you have to pay a considerable price to enjoy it. Pokémon Go has now turned the entire world into an entertainment venue for the masses.

Pokémon Go is only the beginning of mixed reality entertainment slicing into the available market pie of consumers’ available leisure time and discretionary spending. As a completely new form of entertainment media, it is as transformative to the out-of-home entertainment landscape as the introduction of the cinema was in early 20th Century. And that disruption is sure to accelerate if the growing investment in augmented and virtual reality is any indication. In the first quarter of 2016, over $1.0 billion dollars was invested in AR and VR companies, 60% more than all the money invested during entire 2015 year.

Entertainment venues need to take this mixed reality new form of competition very seriously, actually fear it. To continue to attract paying customers, entertainment venues will need to quickly raise the quality, the attractiveness, the Fidelity and the perceived value of the entertainment and social experiences they offer to compete with rapidly evolving, inexpensive, AR digital consumer options such as Pokémon Go’s mixed reality experience.