Pokémon Go is the latest and hottest trend in North America and Australia right now, but it has yet to go viral beyond these boundaries. The limited global presence is not due to a lack of international demand, as we’ve seen many clones appearing in China, but is perhaps because the robustness of data required is only available for development and use within those geographic territories. A game that draws on the nostalgic nature of the 90’s era Gameboy games, Pokémon Go is essentially a stripped down version of the original game that integrates capturing the digital monsters and maintaining levels and scores across social media, and overlaying the features across real world locations. It is an experiment by the Founders of Keyhole, which was bought by Google to become one of the founding teams of Google Maps. The game, developed by Niantic, which is also a loosely connected child company of Alphabet, fits neatly into Google’s technology stack by drawing on existing geographic and user data. Pokémon Go introduces the foundational behavioral traits for utilizing Augmented Reality in our daily lives.
But before we get into our insights, here is a quick snapshot from Joseph Schwartz at SimilarWeb:
- Two days after the release date, it was already installed on 5.16% of all Android devices in the U.S.
- To put that into context, one day after release, total installation rates on U.S. Android phones outnumber those of Tinder
- 60%+ of U.S. downloads are daily users, translating to around 3% of the entire U.S. Android population are Pokémasters
- Within two days after release, the average run time for the app was 43 minutes, 23 seconds a day – higher than Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger
So what does that mean for you?
- Geo-Fencing and location based social media games are nothing new: We’ve seen this before in Foursquare and now in Swarm. We’re seeing it in how people would trade virtual points and perhaps now we can watch millennials who trade Pokémon wrestle for superiority for local gyms. While it is true that we’ve seen an active rise in users moving outdoors to interact with the environment, and anecdotal evidence has been seen with users interacting with other users, providing a source of social outlet – is this enough for a lasting trend?
- Augmented Reality (AR) is an extremely new, and potentially fringe, usage of technology that has questionable adoption rates (currently): Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality have been at each other’s throats for development funding and attention for years. Pokémon Go is the latest thrust in augmented reality for widespread user adoption as it allows consumers to utilize existing hardware within their phones and other mobile devices that connect to a data & GPS signal to accomplish a technological goal or task. But it lacks the processing power to fully create fantasy environments as it still relies on public infrastructures and networks to operate. What we’re noticing here is that there is an inherent limit to AR’s uses, and that may not be a bad thing – as a niche, passively focused interaction technology may be just what we need to move towards widespread adoption of wearables and a new degree of interactivity with our physical and virtual environments.
- Are we seeing a false signal, or is this ushering a new age of VR/AR interactivity?: It’s a step in the right direction. There hasn’t been enough data to draw conclusions, but it’s certainly drawn a lot more attention to how far we’ve come with consumer devices to utilize augmented reality. There’s going to be a slew of Pokémon Go imitations coming out for many other uses from dating to shopping, as well as competitors joining the market.All of this fits neatly within Google’s product development roadmap. With greater adoption and acceptance of the usage of technology, we’re only going to further draw on the data gathering and analysis capabilities of Alphabet, while pushing the agenda towards Google Glass and the wearables market.
But wait, there’s more! How will this help our understanding of modern Customer Experience?
We need to understand our customers
Why was Pokémon Go an instant hit? Because millennials have been asking for more Pokémon games ever since the original Blue & Red versions have been released. It wasn’t even Nintendo that brought us the latest craze, but rather Niantic who combined their understanding of customer needs with their experience in Augmented Reality with Ingress, and in doing so, brought us a new dimension of interactivity.
Even with customer experience, we should all have a deeper understanding of the emotional and purposeful needs of our customers, and how they utilize technology through advanced analytics. Only by doing so will we have the right insight to build a true “experience” on a digital touchpoint.
Customer experience is meant to delight customers and be intuitive and easy to use
The actual customer experience should be fun and incite interest in the user, while being easy to use. Pokémon Go has minimal buttons and menus to crank through, all it requires is the willingness to walk and travel to locations, a click, and a swipe to capture the user’s intended prey. We should aim to build interfaces that have its foundations in natural movements and understandings so that our end product is truly intuitive.
Think of how we can help customers and users through this digital touchpoint
Pokémon Go is a hit…what now? Niantic plans to continue its evolution of the game by utilizing user comments and activity analytics, and already has features such as trading and custom location mapping in its roadmap. But more importantly, we should be thinking about how we can further the ancillary values of the app to our user’s lives – in the case of catching Pokémon, how do we continue to reinforce social contact and physical interaction? Customer experience should be built much the same way, with a good foundational steering committee that’s bought into the overall strategy, feature selection and prioritization based on user analytics, and continue to further the mission of intuitive design, ease of use, and most importantly, to help our customers in their everyday lives.
It’s an obvious trend and a step in the eventual path towards virtualization of physical activity and interactions. But is there something you can do now to monetize and find some usage out of this heavily millennial skewed AR game? Buy some lures and make your business a PokéStop, because this trend isn’t stopping any time soon. The more practice and reputation you have as a first adopter, perhaps the more trust and appeal you’ll build with the digital natives.