In case you missed it (maybe you live in space….), Pokémon Go has burst into our lives over the last week whether we like it or not. Within the Createful Studio, opinion is divided: is this the best thing to happen within apps/games in a long time, or it is adding to the generational issue of conversations dying out and heads constantly buried in mobile phone screens?…

Personally, I am in the former category – an app that rewards its users the more they walk and has created a community spirit, is one of the best things in mobile gaming that I’ve experienced in a very long time. In fact, the last time I felt such a part of something bigger like this was when Pokémon cards came out in the late ‘90s!

Having just got back from a successful session on my lunch break, catching some Pokemon in the town centre, I got into a discussion with a couple of colleagues. This is yet another brilliant element to this game; it’s getting conversations and debates going on social commentaries and attitudes, as well as where apps and tech will take us in the future. An interesting question is presented: is this game so successful merely due to the massive name of the Pokémon franchise supporting it? It certainly helps in the launch, but there is so much more to it.

At Createful, we specialise in creating apps and optimising digital experiences for mobile users, so we love seeing stuff like this whip people up into a frenzy. The key to the continued success of any app isn’t just about the name behind it. While it certainly helps when rolling out a new app to an established user base, it’s about how the app draws you back in to keep using it. We regularly speak to people with great concepts for apps, who will go and get the early versions developed without giving the user experience and replay value any real thought. This is why you see thousands of unsuccessful apps launched every day that never create a stir!

Catching Pokémon on a bus journey

Catching Pokémon on a bus journey

How has Pokémon Go managed to create such a giant storm?

1 – The phased roll-out. This would have been to balance the stress placed on the global servers during launch. This could have been a hindrance to most new concepts, but if you tell someone they can’t do something yet and they have to wait, whilst across the pond people are rounding up Pokémon faster than Usain Bolt riding a Rapidash, they are going to do anything they can to get it!

2 – Gamification. This jargon is something we hear in our industry all the time: “we want to create engagement through gamification” which basically means if something is fun to use and people can get rewards for repeated use and unlock achievements, they are going to keep coming back.

3 – It’s encouraging people to be active and giving them something directly as a result of their hard work. This is fantastic to see, as we were already at a very dangerous situation with our attitude to getting out and getting active. But you throw some imaginary Japanese characters into the mix and people are going on 10k hiking missions to hatch a virtual egg!

4 – The community spirit. I mentioned this before, but I have struck up conversations with complete strangers about what Pokémon are nearby, and if I found a fellow Team Valor member (go Reds!), it prompted an excited whoop and a bit of a chat. Also, the forums and groups dedicated to facilitating meetups to place multiple lures in a designated spot (Bournemouth Pier in the early evening and lunchtimes seems to be popular).

5 – Augmented reality has allowed us to interact with characters that we knew from our youth, within a landscape that has before been mundane and overly familiar. This has led to people finding new things in their hometown; both through Pokéstops and also just from getting lost following a Porygon down a road you’ve never been down before.

6 – Nostalgia. You can’t get away from it – Pokémon was immensly popular in the ’90s. People loved it then and it is even bigger now because of the way they have managed to engage with and grow their user base. What was originally aimed at a younger target audience has captured an audience of users that loved it the first time around.
Ultimately, whilst having an established brand behind you is handy, it’s not always necessary when creating an engaging and rewarding experience that people will want to use again and again. That is one of the most important factors to consider when launching an app.