POKÉMON CATCHES THE WORLD
18 July 2016
This game just did what no one has done before: bringing ‘Gamers’ outside & together in Reallife!!(LAN Parties don’t count)
Memories: It was just around the millenium and I was around 11 or 12 when the hype hit Europe. I was going to the international school in Frankfurt at the time, and some of our asian classmates were of course first to start doodling these funny looking anime creatures into their schoolbooks.
Perhaps it was because my mother refused to buy us a single pack of Pokémon cards, dismissing it as marketing nonesense, that my brother and I got all the more obsessed. Starting from scratch, we had to be creative to find ways of convincing our peers to hand over the much desired cards.
Both our wish that year for christmas was obvious: Gameboy and the Pokémon game. My gameboy was matching the edition of my game: yellow. My brother had blue, because his favourite Pokémon was Schiggi. I think looking back on my entire childhood it was the happiest I ever was at opening my christmas gift. It was insane bliss - thats how much I loved Pokémon.
So now its back! After 15 years of Pokémon abstinence here it is again - the game that raises many memories and childhood emotions. Naturally I had to play it, and naturally I had to do so before it officially launched in Switzerland. Thanks to a SnapChat Friend who spontaneously offered to meet up and install it for me. Pokémon Go is the name of the game now, and of course I started out with: Pikachu - just like back in the gameboy days. Its all about honouring the memory this time around, and about curiosity. Can it catch again, the Pokémon fever. Plus some frame conditions about the game which make it so innovative like the AR (augmented reality) feature and the social component of people playing it together not only virtually, but also being physically summoned to the same locations. Its groundbreaking - its changing the way we play online multipplayer games. In facts its sort of a next level MMORPG (Online Multiplayer Game like massively popular World of Warcraft) where instead of playing in a virtual world, the game is played in the REAL WORLD, and to move through the game, players need to ACTUALLY MOVE in real life. So this means that when many players are summoned to the same location in the game, because a rare pokemon appears for example, the players will be at the same actual physical geo location in real life too. And if you want to see what that can look like check the video below which was taken few days ago when a rare Pokémon appeared in New York Central park.
Upon viewing this its clear that Pokémon has achieved once more to create a kind of ‘gaming revolution’ that has already developed within a few days into a massive global phenomenon.
Pokémon GO in a nutshell:
You walk around with your phone displaying a colourful version of google maps. The Pokémon will appear on the map - you hunt through your neighborhood to track them. Through your phone which is kind of in ‘camera’ mode Pokémon will be ‘projected’ into your surroundings and you can catch them by throwing Pokéballs at them.
My Story with Pokémon GO:
After having installed it it took me a full day, till evening to catch Pikachu, which I did at 1130pm finally in front of Gonzo at Langstrasse. After that my Poké hunt was done for the night because you can’t play the game without WiFi and by the time I took an exit from Gonzo I had no more battery. I did drink a mexican shot down there with the reallife spiderman, but thats sliding off topic because I am pretty certain that marvel games have not been licenced to Nintendo.
The next night I wanted to know what this was all about so I literally set out ‘Pokémon hunting’ the city by tram, by car, on foot. Here’s what I experienced:
I did over 10km of running a day for 3 days because I wanted to hatch a batch of 10km eggs. So Pokémon GO is replacing gym for the time being.
I did take over the Arena both at Bahnhof Wiedikon and Church in Wiedikon although I lost them both again within the hour.
walked into huge Pokémon GO playing crowds at Bellevue and Hauptbahnhof 3 times
saw people interacting over the phone game, exchanging hints - it reminded me of a mobile LAN Party, no microphones & headsets needed!
got caught by the police driving & PokéGOing and got off with a warning (its very dangerous, don’t do it).
activated two PokéStops at 3am after returning from Hive in my neighborhood Wiedikon and few other players still showed up in the dark at that time looking for catch.
I often left home one hour earlier than usual so that I could walk or stop on the way to catch Pokémon.
My hunt for Pokémon even took my all the way to my house where I grew up in - a place that I have not visited in over 5 years.
I learned the names of a lot of statues & streetart in Zurich from the PokéStops
In genereal I discovered a lot of Zurich because I spent a lot of time walking
Whats most impressive about Pokémon GO is how it was designed to 'go viral'. Its a profoundly smart example of how to blow a story up in a major way and creating lots of publicity and free advertisement through massive media coverage based on word to mouth. Wether it is the story of a man catching Pokémon while his wife is giving birth, to a girl discovering a corpse, the man who drove his car into the tree, or the astonishinly well prepped ‘Youtube Pokémon GO tutorial Vlogger’ who is throwing out perfect Pokémon GO tutorials out on a daily basis. The Game was all over everywhere, even Stadtpolizei Zurich tweeted about it with a pretty picture made via the app before this app was even available in the app store!? Naughty Police did a bit of sneaky Fake ID downloading, or whats the story here? Of course its not coiincidece.
The 'hype' was cleverly orchestrated. Nintendo could have anticipated the server capacity issue, given the amount of PR efforts that was put out. The story of the baby daddy busy catching Pokémon won’t make it into international news without some proper communication and contacts to media. Clearly it was not his wife or the doctor who called up CNN. Also funny how the game was ‘not’ released yet at the same time very clear instruction on how to forego that problem was being issued everywhere, I even heard about it on the radio, and perfectly working APK Links where circulating already. Its a perfect example of how to use (social) media to orchestrate news. Its a perfect example of modern advertising. Because why buy a huge billboard when you can hire some communication experts to make up and distribute mind boggling stories that will be in everyones mouths. And this is where Pokémon GO is reflecting the face of today’s advertising landscape. It is what I recommend to my clients when giving strategic consulting on how to approach the social media. Its about creating entertainment, about resharing, about interaction and about stories. We have become so resistent to classical advertisement, especially the millenials that completely grew up with it. Brands are looking for new ways to create interest desire action. Good advertisement nowadays is advertisement that isn’t noticed as such.
I welcome this trend because its actually making marketing and advertisement interesting, creative and disruptive again. Its all about thinking outside that box again. Today’s advertisement industry has the potential to returning to that rock&roll Mad Men of Wallstreet type of enviroment where creative heads can go full on crazy without having to worry about 1000 corporate guidelines on how the product should be most positioned in the most boring and politically correct way.
Back to Pokémon GO - besides the news & marketing frenzy Pokémon GO itself is also programmed to maximise that ‘crowd’ effect. Instead of scattering rare Pokémon outside in nature or ‘off roads’ in Pokémon GO, contrarily to reallife wilflife, the Pokémon prefer the city. They actually really really prefer the spots where most people are. Hence you are unlikely to catch a Pokémon in the forest (I tried) but you will catch 5 within 10 minutes when you head to the main station. With the many people already anyways passing through mainstation; this is the perfect ground to create that crowd. When a player passes the mainstation hes literally lured to staying there for a few moment and catch all the monsters. This is clever piece of strategic designing on side of the game makers to really bring out that community aspect of the game. When you manage to bring together a crowd of players in one spot like that and then suddenly the rare breed colourfully pops up on all of their screens - this creates that audible buzz and exitement that has some people hanging out the whole day inside the mainstation even though its a perfect sunny day to ‘catch em all.’ Its true, I was there & met some of them.
This is definitely my biggest downside to the game. It would have been nicer to individually send people out to explore nature. But instead the Pokémon GO makers decided to put everything on one card: creating the biggest most noticeable hype possible. Creating an easy, mentally unchallenging game that literally EVERYONE can play, and all thats needed is a visit to the mainstation where the pixels will practically run into your phone.
The concept works: very simple foolproof gameplay mainly aimed at bringing together large masses of players in real life, connecting ‘virtual’ with ‘reality.’ With this application one more step towards bringing our computer screens closer to our actual vision has beentaken. Along with 360’ cameras & VR Gear Glasses - virtuality is slowly invading our vision connecting the digital and the physical world.
Its bound to create a boom thats nowhere close to stopping: just imagine playing Pokémon GO with the VR Gear while walking through town?
The game is rudimentary - but the strategy behind it game changing.
In honour of my childhood memories I will proceed to ‘catch em all’
My name on Pokémon GO is Synachu and I’m on the blue team.
Share your Pokémon GO Opinion & Moments with me via Snapchat @snapsylwina