As an entrepreneur with big dreams, the world can be an intimidating place for your ideas. Shows like Shark Tank seem to rip ideas to shreds in an instant, and can cause many to re-evaluate and cast doubt on how much a founder truly believes in his/her idea. But just because an idea may seem juvenile to some does not mean it cannot be an explosive success or worthwhile long term.
The recent skyrocketing success that is Pokémon Go is a testament to the power of ideas for any entrepreneur- what might appear to be a simple idea for a kids’ game can in reality make not only billions of dollars for a company, but can also revitalise a brand and bring to the surface legions of diehard followers and their extended networks.
The Pokémon Go Phenomenon
Pokémon Go is a mobile game from companies Niantic and The Pokémon Company, which centers around catching the popular pocket monsters by walking around the real world. In addition to randomly encountering Pokémon, many real world sites of interest have been made into either pokestops or gyms (leveraging Niantic’s GPS technology). At Pokestops, the player can get items for free by spinning a disc with a picture on it representative of that stop; at gyms, players use their Pokémon to battle others, and whoever wins leaves their Pokémon at the gym to collect more items.
For entrepreneurs, Pokémon Go represents a maximiation of branding ambassadorship and customer loyalty. The game has been trending on Facebook and Twitter nearly every day since its inception due to the amazing fan base it has brought to life. With news such as “Central Park: Crowd of ‘Pokémon Go’ Players Visits New York City Park to Attempt to Catch Rare Pokémon” emerging, the game is constantly on the world’s stage not because of any promotions the game is making of itself, but because the way everyone else is reacting and interacting with it.
Financial magazines like Forbes offer numerous articles covering the phenomenon. One of them talks about how small business entrepreneurs should embrace their new status as pokestops, gyms, and areas of rare Pokémon availability – that by playing on the recent Pokémon Go fervor and making their location accessible to trainers they are a much more attractive and visible place for business.
The fellowship created by the game is another thing entrepreneurs can learn from . People are venturing out at all hours around their cities and towns in an effort to catch all the Pokémon they can, and in doing so they are meeting people they never would have before. Meetups are springing up all over the world where any number between a dozen to thousands are coming together to catch Pokémon. All those friendships forged are to have long lasting positive benefits to the Pokémon and Nintendo brands.
Gotta Catch ‘Em All
Pokémon is owned by The Pokémon Company, which is a group made up of Nintendo, Game Freak, and Creatures. The franchise revolves around being a trainer in a world where you capture creatures called Pokémon (a play on the words pocket monsters) to have them battle other Pokémon and level them up. Since the inception of the first games – Pokémon Red and Blue – dozens of new Pokémon games have been produced over the years, as well as cartoons, movies, comics, cards, and other merchandise. Millions of people around the world have purchased the different gear available to get as close to living the life of a trainer as possible.
Pokémon Go is the newest and closest means for doing this, and the game largely succeeds due to its ability to capture the nostalgia for a generation of Pokémon trainers.
A Short History of Niantic
The company at the heart of all this success, Niantic, has a lot of experience with making GPS enabled, location based gaming. As a part of Google, they started out working on Google World and getting to know the technologies behind location based applications.
It was this experience that allowed them to make their first game, Ingress, In 2013 which relied on using real world location information to see the world differently through augmented reality. In the game, players control landmarks in their area and get to other landmarks to get more powerful. This is all happening while other players are trying to take over your own controlled areas.
Carrying over their expertise, the Pokémon Go app is not all that different from Ingress, except for the inclusion of the popular Pokémon. However, the simple design of the game, with little extras and changes from its previous form, was a choice on the part of Niantic that has paid off. Because the game is open to use but doesn’t give much personal information, players are more social than they may have been otherwise, which has made the experience even more viral.
How Pokémon Go Changed the Game
Starting with financials, Pokémon Go has increased the stock price of Nintendo, its parent company, by over 7 billion dollars.
This is even more exciting given that Pokémon Go, while owned by Nintendo, does not use any of its proprietary console technology – and yet has received a major bump to its value nonetheless.
The game was also lucky to leverage a brand that already has a huge fan base at an age in their lives where their disposable income is enough to indulge in their nostalgia. Most of those who have downloaded the game were kids when the show came out, and they have the passion to get back into a game that meant a lot to their childhood coupled with the money to spend on it. The popularity of the Pokémon franchise helped to market it to the children of former trainers; as stated, similar locational game apps exist but aren’t especially popular, and some like Foursquare creator Dennis Crowley speculate “I don’t know it would have worked if someone made up characters and called it something crazy”.
Another paradigm shift that Niantic created was moving video games from a physically solitary experience to a social one. While most games thrive on having social components, they’re often virtual ones- players communicate over the internet, and at best through voice chat or video calling. But in Pokémon Go, in order to succeed you have to walk around to locations, with popular locations being home to numerous people looking for the same Pokémon you are. This leads to an energizing experience where fans are constantly meeting new people who are as into Pokémon as they are, and these fast friendships can lead to a better feeling towards the brand and more word of mouth with larger communal events.
So how can an entrepreneur learn from the Pokémon Go experience to better their chances at economic success? Here are a few lessons that we think are interesting:
- Leverage something known and familiar– If you’re making a product of some kind, try and hook to something people already know. Pokémon is a popular franchise that is already within the hearts of millions, but that doesn’t mean you have to make deals with licenses; if you want to make an app yourself where locational data is important, adding zombies when the zombie genre was booming would help you to match to customer interest very quickly.
- Change the paradigm– While the subject matter was well-known, the mechanics of having to physically walk around in the real world to catch Pokémon was a game changer. Making unique or creative changes to a familiar concept can make your product or idea stand out in all the right ways.
- Focus on incentivizing brand ambassadors and word of mouth– In Pokémon Go, trainers go to different locations to find the rare Pokémon they want. People have started making social sites and meetups to pass along the locations of the rarest Pokémon, and these large groups are breeding grounds for fan appreciation – plus, all of these player gatherings command the attention of the media, meaning free promotion for your venture. In your product or idea, design it in a way that makes it easy for other people to talk about it, and give them reason to promote it on their own accord.
We would love to hear what you think is the most ingenious part of the Pokemon Go Phenomenon. Leave your comment below!