Pokémon Go primer: what you need to know

Pokémon Go primer: what you need to know

Darryl Sparey argues that Pokémon Go has significant cultural, social and wellbeing benefits.

By Darryl Sparey


In two short weeks Pokémon Go has overtaken Tinder, Candy Crush and Twitter in daily active users. It’s a phenomenon.

You’ll have doubtless have read a thought piece or two on its relevance to different markets and the impact of society itself. LinkedIn is full of the stuff.

Stephen Waddington challenged me to write a version for marketing and public relations.

We caught up last week over beer and ribs at the Ship and Whale in Rotherhithe. I’d stopped by a Pokémon gym in New Cross on the way, and planned to return on the way home.

Here goes.

#1 Word of mouth works for a good product

With minimal investment in any form of above-the-line promotion Pokémon Go has notched up staggering user numbers. Sharing shots of augmented reality images generated by the game has been a primary way that the app has been popularised.

#2 I’ll have a Pokémon with that - and other batshit stories

There have been more almost 300 million articles written about Pokémon Go, The media interest in the app shows no signs of abating from stories of new business models such as Pokémon Go pub crawls or trainers you can pay to train your Pokémon while you are at work, to local stories about rare Pokémon finds.

#3 There are no original ideas

Gamification, location-based social media, and augmented reality - all of these technologies have been available for a number of years. The Pokémon game itself is based on a trading card game 20 years old. Pokémon Go has brought together a number of different technologies to create a genuinely compelling game.

#4 Making money

Monetisation within the app is limited to a shop where you can buy so-called Poké Coins for money and exchange these for things such as egg incubators, and Poké balls which you'll use within the game.

Pokéstops around the app are frequently non-commercial points of interest.. Pokémon Go has a huge opportunity to build a location-based platform based on sponsorship from locations such as retail stores and cafes.

#5 Health and fitness

There have been countless attempts to create health and fitness apps which seek to gamify and incentivise physical activity. Pokémon Go has created a compelling incentive to walk or run without making users conscious of the fact that they are doing it. You can easily see how there could be be tie-ups, incentives and promotions based on distance travelled, calories burned, experience points accrued, number of Pokéstops visited or a whole a range of other activities.

#6 Image-based sharing

There’s a little used camera app within Pokémon Go, which enables you to take pictures Pokémon within the app. As image sharing is one of the most common uses of apps on smart phones it is easy to see how the makers of Pokémon Go might seek to increase the usage of and incentive for using this native camera app. If more experience points, Poké coins or power-up items could be earned from social image sharing within the app, Pokémon Go could overnight become one of the biggest image sharing apps of all time.

#7 Social good

If you’re still a hardened cynic, consider this - in the last week alone, I have talked to more strangers, not just in Central London and around Greenwich park but on a weekend away on Tenby beach in Wales about the shared experience of Pokémon Go. Arguably at a time when, for myriad reasons, fear of strangers has never been greater, any reason to stop, tell a tale, share a laugh or take photo with someone you don't know is a force for social good.

About Darryl Sparey


When he's not playing Pokemon Go Darryl runs marathons and new business at Hotwire PR, an integrated communications agency. You can connect with him on Twitter @DarrylSparey.

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