Niantic’s Pokemon GO game for iOS and Android devices has swept the world, luring tens of millions of players into its clutches. Adults and children are searching high and low for the pocket monsters, training them up, fighting and evolving them into new forms.
The game idea itself is nothing new, Novarama’s Invizimals was using augmented reality to find monsters years ago on PlayStation Portable, while many other games have tried using AR as a gimmick. But the lure of the free-to-play Pokemon GO seems irresistible, with the light touch of in-app purchases raking in millions for the company, but no kids seem to have bankrupted their parents, yet. The game itself has provided a field day for the press as at least one person has died, several have been injured and many had accidents while on the hunt. Children are trespassing, while adults have herded themselves around parks like sheep, to find rare monsters.
On the plus side, the game is encouraging people to get out and about when they would usually be glued to the couch or bed while gaming. It is also helping people socialise more, as they meet at local Training Camps, where the creatures can be exercised. The game is also a great leveller, with children teaching adults the basics. At work, productivity may have taken a brief dip as younger workers traipse around their business or take longer than usual lunches, but no great impact seems to have been recorded.
The ultimate good from Pokemon GO may not be in the game itself, but in how other companies use the basic ideas and apply them to real world apps. Shopping could be so much more fun for children if they had to hunt items around the store, adults will now be more accepting of augmented reality, and it will be used more for work applications or replace consumer product manuals. While collectables and loyalty schemes could move on from their rather old-hat ideas of rewards and bonus points into a far more interactive experience.
If those ideas pan out, that’s not bad from a game inspired by a 20-year-old Nintendo Game Boy title, and there’s much more to come from Niantic as they try to keep people playing.