How Pokémon Go is Changing the Game for Developers

Who would have guessed that 2016’s first big comeback story would be Pokémon? The franchise originally took the world by storm in the mid-nineties, when millions of people became enthralled with Pokémon video games, playing cards, television series and more. In the Pokémon universe, players are human trainers whose goal is to collect every available species of Pokémon, also known as Pocket Monsters. Players then train their Pokémon to battle against other trainers’ Pokémon.

Until a few weeks ago, players collected, trained and battled their Pokémon through video games and playing cards. Now, with the launch of Pokémon Go, players are fulfilling their childhood fantasies of being Pokémon trainers in the real world.

Pokémon Go is a free mobile app that uses an augmented reality to create an interactive playing experience. Using a player’s GPS location, the app displays Pokémon superimposed in real-world settings. You may see a Charizard lurking behind your bus shelter or run into a Pikachu in the grocery store parking lot. Players use digital Pokéballs to catch the Pokémon and add them to their database. Next, players can visit their local Pokémon gym to battle against other real-life trainers.

Since its launch, Pokémon Go has attracted millions of users, even surpassing many social media apps in terms of usage time. The app has been downloaded on approximately 5 percent of smartphones, and needed only 13 hours to reach number one on the United States’ app sales charts. So what can mobile game developers learn from the massive success of Pokémon Go? We break it down for you.

GPS-Based Games and Augmented Reality: The Rise of Interactive Gaming

The days of typecasting gamers as sedentary basement dwellers are over. Mobile gamers are, well, mobile. Part of the appeal of Pokémon Go is the chance to get outside and explore your surroundings. Players are ditching Netflix to visit a local park or wander through their neighbourhood. In fact, some users are even touting Pokémon Go as the new cardio workout.

Mobile devices get a bad rap for making our world less friendly. But take a look at the online photos of people playing Pokémon Go; they are laughing, chatting and looking around. Friends are creating teams and getting together to go Pokémon hunting; strangers are meeting in the streets, pointing each other in the direction of the nearest Jigglypuff. We are constantly bombarded with the message that we have to disconnect to connect. But Pokémon Go allows people to connect with each other while remaining connected to a device. Mobile games are no longer synonymous with sitting still, putting your head down and disconnecting from the real world.

So how can developers create a mobile game that is interactive and collaborative? Enter GPS-based games and augmented reality. GPS-based games, such as Pokémon Go, use a player’s exact location to superimpose images from a screen onto their physical surroundings. Similarly, an augmented reality uses technology to enhance the physical world, often through interactive images, sounds, videos and GPS tracking. The success of Pokémon Go proves that users are hungry for products that blend their love of digital with the actual world they live in. To engage today’s users, developers need to embrace GPS-based games and augmented reality. Instead of creating an escape from the real world, use the real world to create a popular, engaging game.

Engaging Millennials: An Old Idea with a New Spin

Mobile game developers are always looking to engage tech-savvy Millennials with the Next Big Thing. But Millennials didn’t wake up one day with a burning desire to collect fictional monsters. Pokémon Go succeeded because it combines advanced technology with one of the most powerful emotions — nostalgia. The app takes a concept that is already familiar and popular with the smartphone generation and reinvents it as an augmented reality. This presents creators with an exciting challenge: what other franchise or phenomenon can receive a digital makeover? If tracksuits and Pokémon can make a comeback, the opportunities are endless. But Pokémon Go also engages non-Millennials, moving from nostalgic to current. The app does not assume a previous knowledge of the Pokémon universe; anyone can download it, learn the rules, and join the fun. Users: Gotta catch ’em all.

The viral success of Pokémon Go sends an important message to mobile game creators: the game has changed. Now is the time to get creative, embrace interactive gaming and make your users move.