Exploiting the AR world: what Pokemon Go taught us

Pokemon Go is a thing. Or it was a thing. It smashed so many records with its release and had so people walking around like drones that it’s crazy to think that it only started two months ago. The numbers are in steady decline now with over 10 15 million users dropping off and likely many more to Go. See what I did there?!

The game never appealed to me as I was disappointed that you didn’t have to fight any Pokemon to catch them. However, what did appeal to me was the usage of Augmented Reality and the ability to control drive human behaviour. Within a week or two of the craze, businesses started advertising their businesses as places to catch Pokemon. Zomato released an email newsletter shortly after, enticing other enthusiasts to congregate at particular restaurant hot spots. In less than a few weeks, Pokemon Go was achieving what Foursquare failed to do for several years; it was driving traffic real world traffic.

Unfortunately, it seems short-lived. Perhaps it got too big too fast. Their downfall may be that they weren’t entirely ready for this explosion. The team did not expect these levels of traffic in a launch. Servers were frequently down and struggling (I reckon the development team had many sleepless nights trying to keep things going). In Sydney, I met the two developers who developed the leading Pokemon Go map app that rode on the coattails of the craze. They also had constant server issues and spent several weeks of sleepless nights trying to keep their app up. However, they were quick to recognize that the hype of the game wasn’t likely to last. Smart thinking.

Nonetheless the game has proven that under the right system and/or brand, this type of incentive driven behaviour can be successful. As they race to release features that can continue to engage users, it will be interesting to see if it ends up hurting their long-term success. The game has lots of potential for a quality full-fledged Pokemon game but I wonder if they will be able to win users back once they roll out those features. By this time next month, it would not be shocking if it lost more than half of its original user base.

Regardless of what happens, the game is already a huge financial success pulling in over a few hundred million dollars.

What can be said about AR then? Is it the next generation of games?

Those looking for more innovative ways to drive traffic and revenue through other businesses will surely see an increase after the Pokemon Go experience. Their challenge will be to find the sweet spot with engagement if they don’t have the brand power of Pokemon behind it. That being said, they can take the lessons that growing too big, too fast may actually hurt the long-term success of the game.

Developers should be excited for the road that Pokemon Go has paved. Now it’s a race to see who can translate this into a long-term successful game and business model.

Let the real games begin.


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