By Zoe Dowling, Lead
Research Strategist, FocusVision
In the few weeks since Pok??mon GO’s US release, it’s become
a hands down winner for this summer’s ‘craze’. Future generations will likely reflect
on these times with the same fondness as with the hula-hoop or (more recently)
the ice bucket challenge ‘ but for smartphones the needle has forever been
A Friday evening walk on Los Angeles’ Redondo Beach Pier
mirrored many landmark locations around the country ‘ a majority of visitors on
the Pok??mon hunt, many of whom came furnished with mobile battery packs and
chargers. Beyond the volume of active players, it was striking to note how
inclusive the game is ‘ from tweens to grandpas; from individuals and couples
to groups, everyone wanted to catch ‘em all.
What drove Pok??mon
GO’s unprecedented popularity?
Given the inclusive fan base of the game, its popularity
isn’t just a result of the 90′s kids eagerly reliving their youth, nor is it simply
techies delighting in the technological convergence and execution. While these
are contributing factors, there’s more going on.
Pok??mon GO is
The internet, social media and smartphones facilitate a
connectivity and global reach to the extent that memes and trends spread almost
instantaneously. News about the game swept across the country and the globe.
People want to be part of the newest trend.
At the same time, the game’s easy (and free) entry allows
anyone with a smartphone to participate themselves. Within minutes of opening
the app, you experience the wonder of being virtually positioned within your
physical location and catch your very first Pok??mon where Augmented Reality
delights. Perhaps also Pok??mon GO highlights the universal popularity of mobile
casual gaming, although maybe for the first time it becomes a visible, in fact
Pok??mon GO merges
technologies in a way that its predecessors didn’t succeed
Maps aren’t new to gamers but location-based gaming appears
to have gone mainstream. The use of GPS and walking your virtual character
around your physical world is very neat.
Aside from tracking your movements on the map, your physical and virtual
location are also linked by Pok??stops. Here you pick up Pok??Balls and other
items to add to your stash while learning about the micro-landmarks in your
immediate vicinity. During my first walk I discovered that my local diner is 40
years old and that the town library gardens are home to a small remembrance
fountain. Not to mention countless, hitherto undetected, Pok??mon to add to my
The inclusion of Augmented Reality (AR), which some rightly
say is a limited aspect of the game appearing only when you encounter a Pok??mon
and attempt to catch it, nevertheless delivers one of the most ‘wow’ moments,
being the final convincing glue between your physical and virtual worlds. These
technologies, coupled with classic game elements of a mission based activity
where you are awarded experience points, level ups and engage in traditional
video-game combat, deliver a compelling experience.
Pok??mon GO allows
users to concurrently escape and explore their world
Finally, it’s possible that the game brings a welcome relief
from this year’s bleak newsrooms. It provides a moment of escapism that you can
share, even just with slight smiles and nods, with the people around you.
Bringing us together, albeit for a brief moment, in an increasingly fragmented
The branded advantage
Whatever the reasons for Pok??mon GO immense success, it has given
us a glimpse of possibilities with geo-location and AR that up until now have
felt more like a futuristic hyperbole. The opportunities extend well beyond the
gaming world. For brands, the race is on to capitalize upon people’s engagement
with the game and drive traffic to their retail environments. Furthermore,
well-considered partnerships can also help position the brand as a player
within the cultural conversation.
McDonald’s Japan became the first official brand partner
with 400 restaurants as ‘gyms’ and the remaining 2,500 sponsored Pok??stops but
there’s also been many instances of unofficial linkage with signs on shop
windows offering ’10% discount for any Pok??mon captured here’ and countless
social media posts by brands all eager to be part of the moment.
Will Pok??mon GO
impact market research?
It’s hard not to start considering the implications for
research. From an immediate perspective the smartphone message, which should
already be loud and clear, is booming. People have smartphones. People are
using smartphones. This is where we’ll find them.
The willingness to use GPS and having your movements mapped
is an interesting one. In many ways, people already give out this information
freely with check-ins on various social media and review sites but perhaps this
takes it to a new level.
What would a shopper journey look like using an app with a
map overlay? What if there were virtual items within the retail environment
that people found during their journey to signal a feedback loop? What if we
could use AR to have people select items from a set of features and overlay
them to create a view of the environment as they’d like to see it?
In matter of few short weeks, this type of interaction with
research respondents feels entirely possible rather than a pipe dream. The
challenge now ‘ turning the potential into a reality.
About the Author: Zo?? Dowling
is the Lead Research Strategist for FocusVision, the global leader in research
technology. Her extensive background includes quantitative and qualitative
research design, data collection, analysis and report writing. She is an expert
in internet and mobile research, specializing in respondent engagement, as well
as online and offline qualitative approaches, including interviews, focus
groups and usability testing. For more information, visit FocusVision.com.