Disrupted Gaming – AR goes mainstream with Pokémon Go

The adoption curve for Augmented Reality just went through the roof

iDisrupted Commentary

In 2012, Microsoft brought out an Augmented Reality app called Minecraft Reality, which mixed the popular construction game with the player’s real-world environment. Despite the efforts of both Microsoft and various other companies, AR has continued to linger in the shadow of Virtual Reality. . . That is, until last week. Overtaking the US Android installs of both Twitter and Tinder in just seven days, Pokémon GO has put AR squarely in the public eye. The app was released in the US on the 7th of July, becoming available in the UK a week later. Within a few days, Pokémon was dominating both the Android and iTunes charts. Almost overnight, AR had well and truly broken into mainstream culture.

Pokemon V Twitter
In an astonishingly small timeframe, the app has enjoyed unparalleled success. As well as topping the number of daily active users of Twitter and Tinder, Pokémon GO has also surpassed the usage levels of WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and even Facebook, generating and estimated $1.5 million a day from iTunes alone. It took a year and three months for Candy Crush to accumulate 100 million global users. . . It took Pokémon GO six days. In just one day, Nintendo stocks rose by a staggering 23%. The success story doesn’t end there, as last week Niantic announced the release of ‘Pokémon GO Plus’, a wearable which allows users to catch Pokémon and collect items from PokéStops without using their phone. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it has already sold out.

The overwhelming adoption rate of Pokémon GO lies in part with the Pokémon brand, a franchise spanning the last twenty years. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Whilst previous Pokémon incarnations have been limited to owners of Nintendo consoles, Pokémon Go is available to anyone with a smartphone. In theory, the app is very easy to get hold of. It’s free to download from the Android and iOS app stores.

At a time when retailers and brands explore new opportunities to reach millennials, the speed of adoption of Pokémon Go will not have escaped their attention. The most obvious way for companies to benefit from the app’s huge following is through advertising. Currently, businesses can buy ‘sponsored locations’. Eventually, players may be able to exchange in-game rewards (like PokéCoins) for real-life items. Niantic, the developers behind Pokémon Go and its investors have set the bar incredibly high, but it won’t be long before other franchises look to release their own versions of AR entertainment.

Without dimming their achievements, the game’s creators are now faced with the inevitable problems of popularity. The app has already been blamed for causing a number of incidents, including the collision of a fifteen year old girl from Pennsylvania with an oncoming car whilst searching for Pokémon. It seems that the platform is a risk as well as a benefit to the health of its players, and could cause legal headaches as injured Pokémon enthusiasts demand compensation.

Ultimately, Pokémon GO will disrupt more than just the way we game. It has thrown AR into the spotlight, creating countless opportunities for the wider adoption of AR. The app’s domination is just a taster of fast-moving global adoption trends, and undoubtedly justifies investment in advanced technology.