Admit it, did you see a single ad for Pokémon GO before it was released? Odds are you probably found out about it from a friend who was playing it. While Niantic’s Pokémon GO may have started as an April Fool’s Joke, on July 6th 2016, millions of Americans plugged in to finally experience the popular franchise in the real world (more or less). Recode.net estiamtes the total number of players in the US to be about 9.5 million daily. Additionally the app has already surpassed data usage of other popular apps such as Tinder and Twitter. But, the question is, how can an app with little to no marketing or pr budget get, let alone keep the number one spot for so long? Well there are a few reasons.
To start, let’s get to know what Pokémon GO actually is. Pokémon GO uses augmented reality “to blend digital fantasy and tangible reality in new and exciting ways,” bringing the world of Pokémon to your fingertips. But, you may be saying, the Pokémon games have always been on mobile consoles, what makes this any different? Well, Pokémon GO is finally the first Pokémon game that is compatible with a console everyone already owns. Over the past 20 years traditional Pokémon games have been exclusively on Nintendo devices, generations of Gameboys and now the DS. While this may foster brand loyalty, most people (cheap millennials) aren’t willing to shell out a couple hundred for every new console upgrade. So, when an easier [cheaper (actually free)] option presents itself, it will “appeal to mobile-bound, nostalgic millennials.” But, Pokémon is primarily a kids game, and in this day and age kids have phones as early as 5th grade. So essentially Pokémon GO, exponentially increased their user base from the get-go, maintaining their DS toting kids and reeling back their estranged older players, not to mention all the other players just trying to be ‘hip.’
Another selling point is the technology of the game. Pokémon GO utilizes augmented reality, using your phone’s camera to show you the pokémon you are catching in your world. As of recently technology like AR and VR are coming out of the shadows with consoles like the Oculus Rift and Playstation VR. To bring this kind of advanced (expensive sounding) technology to the masses was a smart move by Niantic. “In the 1990s the Pokémon franchise created a world that users wanted to live in and now AR brings them much closer to that actuality.”
Niantic isn’t the only company benefiting from Pokémon GO, restaurants and stores all over the world are advertising their access to Pokéstops and Gyms and are gaining wild success from it. Even my local library, which boasts a trifecta of Pokéstops in its front lawn put up a board to place stickers of the Pokémon you have caught there.
Pokémon is arguably one of the most popular franchises of all time. Nintendo sells numerous poké products, the video games and trading cards being the some of the most popular. This app is riding on the success of the Pokémon franchise itself. The app would never need excessive advertising or marketing because it was bringing what the people wanted, monsters in their actual pockets. The success of Pokémon GO is truly one of a kind.