Pokémon GO, what’s all the fuss about?


Ben Hawkes, Content Strategist at DigitasLBi, gets to grips with Pokémon GO.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be aware that last week Nintendo released the latest in a long list of Pokémon games, Pokémon GO. And things have got a bit crazy.

Essentially Pokémon GO is a free-to-play augmented reality mobile game based on Nintendo’s popular Pokémon franchise. The goal of the game follows the original basic premise of the Pokémon world in capturing magical cutesy Japanese anime beasties in those red and white Poké Balls.

But this is not 1996. The skill is not in quick Game Boy thumbs, cheat codes and a large supply of AA batteries…now the Pokémon are here in real(ish) life and it is you, the player, who “Gotta catch ‘em all!”

To play Pokémon GO, you actually have to leave the house looking through the camera on your smartphone at a Pokémon augmented world as you track and catch all the Jigglypuffs, Charmanders and Squirtles that are loitering somewhere in your area.

So, the numbers.

This is only the first week since launch, so there is a fair bit of skewed excitement, but the sheer scale is pretty unprecedented. Currently Pokémon GO:

  • has over 7 million downloads
  • is on more Android devices than Tinder.
  • has as many Daily Active Users as Twitter
  • is accessed daily by 60% of users
  • has a higher usage time than Whatsapp, Instagram and Snapchat (+43 minutes per day.)

The benefits

Much like how the Nintendo Wii’s motion-sensitive controller forced people to get up off the sofa to play the games, Pokémon GO encourages people to actually get out of the house and engage in an activity (and a pretty epic one at that). A by-product of this is that players are finding themselves socialising in local spots with like-minded people from their community, comparing notes, making friends and catching the wild Pokemon scuttling about the parks and streets.

Already there are numerous reports (albeit anecdotal) of genuine benefits like meeting your neighbours, improvements in mental health, helping fight addictions, finding erm… dead bodies and obviously an ever-deepening rabbit hole of dank and spicy memes. There are even SFW Pokémon GO nudes.

The dangers

With the launch of any popular bit of tech there is always reports around the privacy risks and Pokémon GO is no exception, but so far these only seem to concern iOS users who are forced to login in using their Google account (which is compulsory unless you have a Pokemon.com account, but let’s face it, WHO HAS ONE OF THOSE?) There is even, for all you tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorists out there, a clear government surveillance psyop conspiracy in the making. However, these cautionary risks should come as no surprise to us smartphone natives because as we all know, the web is dark and full of horrors.

The money

So where is the money? Well, other than Nintendo’s stock price increasing by 34%, there is nothing obvious, yet. But if Pokémon GO turns out to be the first genuinely mass-market augmented reality game, then millions of people staring at their mobile screens cannot be ignored. If you take into consideration that your mobile device knows your name, age, sex and search history then you add geo-location and you have a potentially pretty potent marketing mix.

These are fairly unfished waters so here are a few ideas:

Targeted ads:

As you pan around the augmented shopping mall looking for Bulbasaur, the billboard adverts show ads targeted specifically for you.

Local business:

You find a Psyduck cowering in a bus stop. He squeaks to you: “Hey buddy, you’ve been walking for 2 hours. You must be thirsty, there is a Starbucks 2 minutes walk away. PSYDUCK!”


You stumble across Diglett outside your local cinema. Beside him is a sign reading: “Book your tickets for Star Trek Beyond now and get a 50% discount.”


As you wander down a road a sign to the left reads: “Be safe, this road has seen an increase in mobile phone thefts in the last month. Try another route”

Sponsored Limited Edition Pokémon:

Catch the Dustbin Timbersnake Pokémon to win a copy of Justin Timberlake’s new album.

Even if this game is short lived and the popularity drops off a cliff, the keywords involved in just talking Pokémon GO should be enough to make people sit up and listen. Or maybe even get up, go outside and have a go at this augmented-reality social mass-market mobile game app that blurs the lines between digital/social, game/reality, interactivity/engagement.

Regardless, they’re not gonna catch themselves. Go team Red!