I wanna be the very best. Like no one ever was. To sell them is my real test. To profit is my cause.
Back in 2014, a massive trend took the world by storm. The ability to navigate the world in search of the fictional beasts we all grew up with was a dream come true. Whether in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean or at the top of the Eiffel Tower, Pokémon were everywhere. That year, on the first of April, a company called Niantic released a way for us to finally travel across the land to search far and wide, and teach Pokémon to truly understand the power that’s inside.
Originally, back then, things were a little different. Niantic didn’t quite exist yet, and not everyone was competing to become a Pokémon Master. Most importantly, “travel” was restricted to Google Maps, and the experience was not as immersive. However, what started out as an April Fool’s joke only took two years to become one of, if not the fastest growing app on any platform. On July 6, 2016 Niantic officially released Pokémon Go, and truly made our dreams a reality. Within the first week, people stopped asking, “Do you play Pokémon Go?” Instead, the question became “Are you Team Valor or Team Mystic?” (Shame that Team Instinct was never as popular as the others. Zapdos had always been my favorite of the three.)
It’s hard to believe a single mobile application was all it took to Max Revive a franchise that had not seen this much attention since its reign in the 90’s. Most of us probably conclude that Pokémon Go’s success fed off of two things: never-before-seen technology and nostalgia. However, another major contributor was the fact that Pokémon Go turned a normal everyday activity into a game. According to a post on the GameSpot Forums, “IGN’s Terri Schwartz made a case for Pokemon Go as the greatest incognito exercise app available in a recent column, which I would have to agree with, but my immediate question is ‘why?’. The best answer to my mind, is that Pokémon Go has given a secondary goal to pursue. One of the approaches to applying game design to an every day activity, or gamification, is setting a goal to pursue an end.” GameSpot user, darkspineslayer, goes on the admit, “I fell to the lure of the tactic myself. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t get nearly as much physical activity as I should. Pokémon Go, however, was the primary goal of me taking a walk today.” I will gladly be the second to admit that, for a while, Pokémon Go was my only motivation to get any kind of physical exercise. Never had I expected to be walking an extra half-hour beyond my normal bus stop simply to capture a ghostly floating ball inside another ball just so I can sell it for candy. (That candy, of course, would eventually be fed to another purple ball of gas.) While most of us will not benefit from the boost of nostalgia Pokémon already had, we can all take a lesson from Pokémon Go’s initiative to gamify an everyday activity.
Gamification Using Augmented Reality
DataGame takes this idea of gamifying an activity to another level, claiming, “[Pokémon Go] gamifies everyday life. In particular, it provides an endless supply of opportunities to engage while you’re traveling between point A and point B with nothing better to do. Your game profile levels up the more you play, unlocking new capabilities over time.” Pokémon Go’s intention was not to gamify the already colossal video game franchise of Pokémon itself; instead, it sought to promote augmented reality (AR), in which Niantic is a major contributor. The goal of AR is to merge virtual displays with real-life environments. Up until now, AR was primarily used to promote certain products or enhance an existing experience – *cough* The Pfister Art Tour *cough* – but it had never reached the level of expansiveness as seen in Pokémon Go. Being able to find Pokémon and PokéStops literally anywhere in the world had a pretty big impact on daily habits: you can be walking by your local GameStop and be tempted to walk in when your phone alerts you of a nearby PokéStop. In fact, Niantic even took advantage of this, and offered the opportunity for businesses to create sponsored PokéStops.
What makes gamification so effective as a marketing tactic is how little it relies on the marketer to sell the product. Predicting how people will react to your campaign can be difficult, and the accuracy of the expected results are Wishiwashi at best. However, when your “advertisement” is disguised as a game, there’s less weight on your company to promote itself. Rather, your biggest source of exposure comes from your consumers, who can’t resist letting their friends know about this great new game they have been playing. As stated in a Convince & Convert article by Kristen Matthews, “Your potential consumers want to hear from their friends and other consumers about your brand, not your brand itself.” Sure, it’s probably because players know they would be able to easily kick their friend’s Azurill, but there is nothing wrong with a bit of friendly competition. Matthews continues, “The theory behind implementing these types of techniques is that they make an emotional connection with the audience and lead to a longer relationship as opposed to simple brand awareness.” In other words, voluntary prolonged exposure to a brand is much more effective at building a lasting relationship than a photo glued to the side of a bus stop. Let’s face it; how many of us had actually taken our phone out just to scan that QR code at the corner of a dentistry ad?
In all honestly, I originally volunteered to write about this mostly because the word “Pokémon” was in the description. It’s been months since I deleted the app from my phone, and since then, I’ve personally moved on to bigger and better things (namely Pokémon Moon). But there’s no denying the impact Pokémon Go has left on the world, physically, socially, and technologically. Perhaps it’s time for you to put your money where your Meowth is and start promoting your brand in the form of competition. All it really takes is a little bit of valor and instinct. Sprinkle in a some mystic, and maybe your next April Fool’s joke can net you a profit of $9 billion. It’s been fun getting to be a part of Pokémon’s evolution over the decades, here’s to another 20 years!