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Blog: Pokémon Go – the AR revolution is real

20 JUL 2016

At the time of writing, I have caught 137 (28 different types), I am well on my way towards Level 9 and I have 9 eggs that need incubating.

What am I talking about? Pokémon Go of course. And as I engage with it more and more, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to categorise this as just another game.

Not only has this app given nineties kids the chance to get all nostalgic about their childhoods (the last time they embarked on a quest to find these fictional creatures was on the Nintendo Gameboy), but it’s also getting people out of the house to walk and engage with other people trying to “catch them all” (providing real-life social networking).

It’s also probably the first Augmented Reality (AR) use case that is really being embraced by the masses and more than anything, it is yet another example of what technology can do.

Its impact, arguably, could end up being as big as that of the iPhone on smartphones, or what Facebook did for social media.

Japan’s Nintendo, meanwhile, famous for Super Mario, Zelda, Pokémon of course, and some of the best gaming platforms ever created before the launch of the internet generation of console, is laughing.

While criticised for standing still during the smartphone gaming era, it has, along with Google spin-off Niantic and the Pokémon company, been working to change the game altogether.

This is reflected by its share price, which has rocketed by as much as 50 per cent since the game’s launch, even surpassing home rival Sony in terms of market value this week, the company that once muscled in on its dominant position in the gaming sector. Take that!

Pokérators
pokemon-go-boxartFor our industry, this game has even allowed mobile operators the chance to jump on the bandwagon.

Often criticised for being completely out of touch with their users, and generally out of the loop when it comes to new technology trends, operators are using Pokémon Go to upsell data plans, and they’re trying to do it in a humorous way.

You can’t walk down a high street in the UK without seeing a billboard outside a 3 or EE store that tells you to “play Pokémon Go to your heart’s content with our amazing data package”.

And it’s no surprise. Just a day after its launch last week, EE said more than half a million new players joined Pokémon Go, with six new “Pokémon trainers” created every second. The operator is now even offering a half price deal on its battery packs  to “keep Pokémon hunters on the go”.

Meanwhile, in the US, T-Mobile US extended its rewards programme to offer free, unlimited data for Pokémon Go for a full year, while Sprint is tempting people to its stores by enabling “lures to attract monsters that players can capture”.

Data dilemma
But, everything comes at a price. Not only is this game incredibly draining on your smartphone battery (as EE recognises), it also really only works through the use of mobile data because it is location based, meaning users have to be on their toes all the time to build up their score, as well as hunting down the rarest of Pokémon.

(Sitting at your desk or at home on Wi-Fi can find you the odd Pidgey, but you won’t get very far).

In fact, pretty much every aspect of the game requires its players to interact with the digital world in some way, whether it is “battling” other trainers in a gym, or picking up goodies such as Pokeballs in certain locations, such as churches, monuments or train stations.

The good thing is, according to early research by networking company Procera Networks and analytics firm P9, the game doesn’t actually drain as much data as you might think.

It only takes a small amount of bandwidth compared to apps like Facebook and Spotify, and even less than what it would take to stream a video.

This, however, is likely to change once Pokémon Go fully monetises the platform with things like advertising and sponsorships, meaning third parties interact with the game, and increase the load on servers, warned Procera.

For now, this latest technology trend has thrown up a few quirky stories that won’t be forgotten in a hurry, and data allowances seem to be at the back of users’ minds.

From the man in New Zealand that has quit his job to go on a 2 month tour to find these virtual creatures, to players in Bosnia being warned against straying into minefields to search for Pokémon, the revolution is real.

Spare a thought for those in Japan, however; Nintendo’s home market. Notoriously gaming mad, Pokémon Go’s launch has been reportedly delayed due to concerns that the hype generated would overload the game’s servers.

You couldn’t make this up.

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.

Author

Kavit Majithia

Kavit joined Mobile World Live in May 2015 as Content Editor. He started his journalism career at the Press Association before joining Euromoney’s graduate scheme in April 2010. Read More >>

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