How Pokémon Go turned Nintendo into a mobile gaming powerhouse

Sean Keum
Sean Keum
Oct 28 · 5 min read

Stan World is a virtual realm full of virtual resorts. Stars and brands can own and operate resorts, and users have the freedom to experience those platforms, including concerts, malls, and theme parks. Virtual resorts are essentially Stan World’s definition of how media franchises expand through digital platforms.

The digital revolution has brought many changes to stars and brands not only in terms of creation and consumption of media, but also in terms of marketing, product development, and monetization.

Pokémon is the #1 highest-grossing media franchise of all time, with at least $92.121 billion dollars in total revenue. Maintaining popularity is extremely difficult in today’s volatile media market; how did Nintendo, now a 130-year-old company, achieve and maintain this feat?

As a specific example of its assets, Pokémon’s popularity is particularly evident in the success of Pokémon Go, a cultural phenomenon. The game is now 3 years old, but considering the relatively short lifecycle of mobile games, it’s still extremely relevant: As of April 2019, almost 3 years after launch, the game’s revenue is worth almost $200,000 a day. Let’s take a look at its business model.

Social media won the game for Pokémon Go

The “Pokémon Go” phenomenon

Pokémon Go’s marketing strategy benefited the most from social media. In the first month of launch, it generated 231 million individuals and 1.1 billion discussions on social platforms like Facebook and Instagram, becoming a true social media phenomenon — an SNS marketing dream come true.

Plus, it was advertised as the first big AR (augmented reality) game, and as an exploration-focused, social game — basically, the world had seen nothing of its kind before. The significant success of the Pokémon IP (intellectual property) and the nostalgic factor shared by many people could only help its success.

Nintendo’s evolutionary step into uncharted territory

Pokémon Go required Nintendo to step into uncharted territory to achieve great success. From a business standpoint, it was a bold move to fully enter the mobile ecosystem by a partnership with Niantic, the developer of the game. It was the right move; Nintendo had the popular IP, and Niantic had the platform — crowdsourcing technology required for Pokémon Go, developed in its previous game Ingress.

AR technology used in “Pokémon Go”

Niantic combined both traditional (familiar) and new technology (unfamiliar) into development. GPS & crowdsourced data, a widely used technology, was incorporated to populate geographical areas with Pokéstops and gyms. (The idea for Pokémon Go was originally conceived as a collaboration with Google, named Google Maps: Pokémon Challenge.) Physical exploration was highly encouraged for gameplay. On the other hand, augmented reality was very new at the time — the game used phone cameras to display Pokémon on screen as if they appeared in the real world.

The combination of old and new technologies essentially helped the optimization process of Pokémon Go for different demographics. For older gamers who were more likely to be familiar with traditional RPG Pokémon games, Pokémon Go was a breath of fresh air — it provided a real, physical world where users could explore to find Pokémon. For younger gamers who were more likely to be new to Pokémon, it introduced the franchise in an extremely accessible manner, in the form of a social mobile app, that didn’t require a Nintendo game console in order to be played. In addition — to give players more freedom in gameplay, the AR mode was completely optional: greater variety led to diverse userbases.

Pokémon Go’s unlimited uses for monetization and partnerships

Pokémon Go has generated numerous methods for monetization and collaborations with other franchises. The game does include microtransactions that give paying players certain advantages, while maintaining the core game mechanic — exploring and capturing Pokémon — as completely free.

The Starbucks “Go Frappuccino”

The game formed partnerships with numerous well-known franchises. In December 2016 alone, Nintendo collaborated with Starbucks, Sprint, and Apple — a companion app used to locate Pokémon was released for Apple Watch devices, while Pokéstops and gyms were added to certain Starbucks and Sprint retail shops.

The Evolution into a Truly Digital Media Powerhouse

Pokémon Go has made a gigantic commercial impact. Within a week after launch, Nintendo’s stock value rose up to 50% — and resulted in the company’s market value by more than $9 billion. In 2 weeks, shares doubled compared to pre-launch.

Nintendo shares from 2015–16

This marks a significant move from Nintendo; prior to Pokémon Go and its enormous success, the company was cautious about entering the mobile market, because it considered it as a competitive market to the portable gaming ecosystem that the company was heavily invested in.

By stepping outside their comfort zone and seizing the opportunity, Nintendo transcended into a powerhouse in both portable and mobile gaming markets. Pokémon Go also greatly influenced the development of Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Eevee! (Released in 2018), Nintendo’s own games for the Nintendo Switch, which in turn sold over 10.98 million copies as of June 2019. Pokémon Go has significantly benefited every associated party/company/ franchise.

Media Franchise & Next-Gen Technology — a Match Made in Heaven

The most important move Nintendo made in producing Pokémon Go was teaming up with Niantic, a developer with the data, technology, and platform that could elevate the franchise even further. Evolution is necessary and possible even for the biggest and greatest of franchises, and Nintendo’s partnership with Niantic has proof. Likewise, Stan World is here to provide the tools — the next-gen digital platform and blockchain technology needed for franchise evolution. We are an online VR platform where popular stars & brands launch their Virtual Resorts.

Stan World is en route to capture the essence of the next-gen blockchain media evolution, as a go-to platform for virtual resorts and lifestyles previously considered impossible. Find out more.

Stan World

NEXT-GEN ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA FOR THE NEXT-GEN

Sean Keum

Written by

Sean Keum

Psychologist, Researcher at Stan World

Stan World

NEXT-GEN ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA FOR THE NEXT-GEN

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade