In less than two weeks, Pokemon GO has captured the hearts, minds, and data plans of people around the world.
Pokemon GO first premiered on July 6, 2016, the long-awaited smartphone incarnation of the popular 90’s franchise and has already become a household name. A mere two days after the release, the app was installed on 6% of Android phones (1), or about 1 in every 20 Android users. The app is poised to beat out Maps as the most widely used app, having already surpassed other favorites, including Twitter (2). But what is it about this game that makes it so irresistible?
The first answer is: nostalgia. The core user base of Pokemon GO are the twenty-somethings and Millenials who grew up with Pokemon. For these users, Pokemon GO is an escape back to the uncomplicated days of childhood. Millennial have been labelled the “Nostalgia Generation” – and business big and small have not hesitated to use “Nostalgia Marketing” to appeal to them. Consider the recent revamps of Jurassic Park, Star Wars, and Terminator, or that Coca Cola has started selling Surge again. Millennials want to “throwback” all the way to their childhood, and marketers are more than happy to play along.
But nostalgia alone isn’t enough to explain the widespread penetration of Pokemon GO. First of all, Pokemon GO hits the balance of “simple” and “engaging” square on the head. Players walk around the real world, which moves their avatar around the virtual world. When you happen across a Pokemon, your phone vibrates and the screen changes to show the Pokemon in your real world setting, in an unprecedented display of “augmented reality.” Use your finger to throw a Pokeball and hope you catch it. An easy-to-understand concept that has translated into the more minutes of use each day than any other app.
The augmented reality boosts the game’s popularity in several ways. As one reporter explains, “The session time in Pokémon Go can essentially be as long as the player wants, because there is a constant way to increase the length of the session time by walking to more pit-stops,” – known as PokeStops in the game. PokeStops are real-world places, such as monuments, post offices, and others. When you arrive at one, you can swipe to get a varying array of special items.
PokeStops are one example of what Pokemon GO does so expertly – employ the “#1 psychological ingredient in slot machines: intermittent variable rewards” (3). With this app, you never know when, what, or where your rewards will take place, psychologically proven to cause addiction. As you move through the game, you never know when your next Pokemon will show up or what it will be. Collecting has also proven to be addicting, providing two impulsive reasons for users to keep returning to the game.
The augmented reality also lets users interact with Pokemon in a unique way, and the proof is all over social media, creating a social reinforcement for playing the game. Trying to post the funniest, most creative Pokemon screenshot has become a favorite past time for users, and businesses are loving the free exposure!
Olive Garden‘s quick and funny response was right on target! Other businesses are capitalizing on the app’s huge success as well, by taking advantage of different game features. For example, many businesses are buying Lure Modules, which attract Pokemon (and hoards of Pokemon hunters!) to a PokeStop. Others are offering discounts if you show your Pokedex, the log where you track which Pokemon you’ve caught. Others are advertising when rare Pokemon are found in their stores!
Are you interested in using this trend to your advantage? We’d love to help! Give us a call!