The Pokémon GO! phenomenon is an excellent example of how digital innovation can impact our everyday’s life and be creatively embraced by businesses to create new sources of revenue (but also carry some side effects).
The Pokémon GO! phenomenon has stormed across every country where it has been released. It even went viral in countries where it had not been officially released, but where travellers from Australia, Japan or the US were visiting and the game got out into the wild.
Articles were published about how this augmented reality game was changing the lives of children with autism, breaking down ethnic and social barriers, increasing the activity and fitness levels of entire swaths of the population, and reaping rewards for parents and children who had something that they both could understand on a mobile device.
Unfortunately, it also led to personal injuries, property invasion, mass disruption to transport systems, crime and a loss of workplace productivity. In addition, it spawned a subculture of rapid exploitation in some parts of the software application industry to harvest money.
These unforeseen issues had the effect of detracting from what several media and social commentators had labelled an overwhelmingly positive experience. Cynicism and mockery began to creep into the atmosphere surrounding the game.
However, in a surprise twist, many brick-and-mortar businesses began to leverage the game by offering the players incentives to stay and shop with them while waiting for their new Pidgey or Voltorb. Some even set lures in their businesses to encourage players to congregate and shop.
The twists continued when word spread that these businesses were becoming ‘Pokémon friendly’. Players set meetings at them to explicitly go grab a coffee and hunt some Pokémon. The tide of commercial cynicism by the players turned to become a positive attribute of the business, while businesses still protesting at the number of people cluttering up their doorways were stymied with a bad reputation – one that will stay with them for some time.
I doubt that that the developers had these changes in player/consumer behaviour specifically in mind when releasing the game. However, it is a timely reminder that the introduction of new innovative elements into the real world will frequently result in unforeseen – and, hopefully, overall good – responses.