[From: The Commonplace of Ludvig Sunström.]
[Title: How Did Pokemon GO Become Popular?]
[Tagged: Musings, Lollapalooza Effects.]
7 Overarching Reasons for the Popularity of Pokemon GO:
(All of which are explained below.)
- Minimal barrier to entry. Available to all, minimal know-how required, and excludes no one of any particular demographic or age. (Free + fast to acquire via phone download on App store).
- Extremely social and psychologically appealing. For a number of reasons (~7).
- Clever built-in functions. These work as incentives/disincentives to get the player to do what the creators want.
- Novelty. New & revolutionary platform/technology. Augmented reality. Which–in itself–is newsworthy for making massive PR enough to start:
- A Snowball effect. Combination of (1) critical mass, (2) auto-catalysis, (3) self-sustaining feedback loop. Even the bad stories–like people getting hurt or dying by looking at their phones and getting hit by a truck–helps sustain this PR/media feedback loop. All news is good news for the sake of keeping the snowball of PR rolling, making it all the more newsworthy.
- Strong brand & character recognition. Probably not significant in or by itself, but it’s there all right. And it helps add a few extra sparks to the viral frenzy. Everyone knows what Pikatchu looks like.
- Nostalgia. (Similar to #6–not significant, but palpable). Especially to people my age (I’m 25). Playing a hand-held game brings back memories of Gameboy as a kid.
How popular is Pokemon GO?
Very popular right now.
While I did my research/brainstorming (~80 min) and put together this article (~15 minutes of formatting), I had the Hashtag “#PokemonGO” open in Twitter:
–So, that’s 5042 new Tweets with that Hashtag during less than 2 hours!
I think it’s safe to say it’s gone viral.
But this picture says it even better:
— Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar) July 18, 2016
An answer to the question: How Did Pokemon GO Become Popular?
Product & Design:
1) It’s free & available to everyone. (Freemium model).
2) Community. They put lots of time and money into building a ready-to-go big community on their website. Contains features like:
- Leadership board for competition. [See image below]
- Forums for interaction.
- Real-life meetups / events.
- Simple instructions for everyone interested (from kids to parents).
- (And of course a number of clever ways to make money).
3) Built-in incentives to facilitate social media sharing and virality.
Example: They have purposely not included any in-game sharing. So you have to take screenshots and share it via social media. (Side note: A dual benefit is that it makes you feel like it’s your own idea when posting). E.G:
- (“Look, I caught myself a big pudgy Snorlax by our beach!”)
- (“Look, I’m part of Team Mystic!” [picture of team flag] )
- (“Look, I’m with my friends playing!”)
- (“Look, I’m in a dangerous place–[like in the ghetto]–capturing a rare pokemon!”)
>> All of these are potential Tweets of an average person.
4) Availability/Visibility: Then there’s the thing that you can visible see people outside playing it all the time and acting weird (or so I’ve heard, I actually haven’t seen anyone). This makes it constantly top-of-mind for people. It creates a potential conversation with friends or a social media post:
- “I think there must have been a flash mob at the park today. . .”
- “Funny thing happened today, I saw three guys running around in the forest with their phones. . . .”
1) It’s extremely easy & user-friendly: No formal education required. Little on-boarding (in-game explanation).
2) Quick rewards: Players are rewarded ASAP upon starting to play to sustain early motivation to continue. As with all successful games, it’s built for instant gratification.
3) It’s a social game — you (can) play it with friends (in teams) and versus enemies. So, in summary: Community, belonging, team-play, and rivalry.
Built-in mechanisms to incentivize social interplay/teamwork. Example:
It becomes easy to meet, interact and befriend strangers outdoors. (You have a reason to talk to them: “Hey, what Pokemon are you trying to catch?” or “I challenge you!”)
Another clever mechanism they made to incentivize social interplay is that the game shows you “hot spots” where other people are. This makes you feel less lonely, as if you’re always playing together with other people. This goes back to the minimal barrier of entry (reason #1); many people don’t even want to start (or will quit very fast) if they must play alone.
4) Highly competitive game. Growing up, I remember playing an old Pokemon game on Gameboy and wanting to have the strongest Pokemons. (We all wanted to get the secret/overpowered pokemon Mew.)
“Prestige level.” Example:
[What gets measured gets managed. Pokemon GO gives players a benchmark of competition. Basically, a built-in purpose for playing. Compared to real-life, where there is no evident goal or plotline.]
5) Built-in randomness. Like a slot machine, you don’t know what you get until you get it! This stimulates extra dopamine and is THE main driver of all successful games. (Candy Crush Saga is a prime example.) In Pokemon Go, your phone randomly vibrates when you come near a Pokemon (thus giving you an unexpected reward). And more random rewards. . .
Basically, the entire game is based around it. Running around and hoping to get lucky to randomly discover/encounter/find the right Pokemons.
6) Built-in challenge: Some Pokemons are tricky and rare to find and you have to struggle to get them. All the more joyful to succeed.
7) Collection. People enjoy collecting things. I know I do. Only I sublimate that in a positive way by commonplacing.
8) Visible progression and character development. This was my main motivation for playing RPG games growing up. In Pokemon, you see your Pokemon leveling up and gaining experience points.
9) Commitment: The more Pokemons you capture, the more time you put into levelling them up, and the more in-game friends you acquire, the more likely you are to want to continue playing. This translates into higher customer loyalty/retention for its creators.
10) You have an excuse to play it regardless of age: I have mentioned several already. Mainly the social aspect (including as an excuse for dating!). But probably the “health aspect” (as signified by the name, “GO”) is most significant?
1) Launch strategy:
Timed for when (a) weather around the world is at its peak (early July) and (b) school is out for children, giving them time to play outside more than usual.
(Side note: As a way to capitalize on this storm of hype and virality–which surely no one could have expected to reach this potency (?)–they have re-launched two of their old games on the Nintendo 3DS platform. And probably done a bunch of other (re) launches related to their franchise-empire which I am not aware of. Here’s one example: merchandise:
Get your LIMITED EDTION team shirts here: https://t.co/iPFR8bXGi8
💛 Team INSTINCT
💙 Team MYSTIC
❤️ Team VALOR pic.twitter.com/rWPN0UDUbB
— Pokémon Go Servers (@PGoServers) July 18, 2016
2) Audience: They already had a massive existing or (potential) audience with which to help them spark the frenzied fire of virality. Basically, anyone aged 5-36. Example of potential audience:
3) Support from early adopters: In conjunction with the launch and audience, they got great reviews and buy-in from their testers and early audience.
What am I missing?
Feel free to leave a comment and enlighten me.
I have not played this game and I wrote this article off my ass after doing some Google searches and brainstorming off of a few of my checklists for analysis. It took me just under 2 hours. So…
…there’s no way I’ve covered everything here. What am I missing?