It is less than 2 weeks after Pokémon Go released, and the app has 26 million daily active users, just in the U.S.. This has brought the game makers an estimated $3.9-$4.9 million dollars in the first day – for an app that’s free to download. So, what’s the deal with Pokémon Go? And is it turning us all into electronic zombies?
If you haven’t learned by now, Pokémon Go is a location-based augmented reality game for iPhone & Android. If you ever played Pokémon on Gameboy in the late ’90s, it will be extremely familiar to you. You capture, train, and battle the original 151 Pokémon, but this time, in an augmented reality. The game is run through the GPS on your phone and there are various PokéStops and gyms that show up based on your location. The game was released in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand on July 6th, and is now available in 26 more countries.
I think it’s safe to say that no one can remember the last time something gained this much popularity, at least in the U.S. Everywhere you go, people are playing, and that leads some people to say, “All of you people playing are driving me crazy, You’re walking around completely glued to your phones.”
So, let’s break it down.
And yes, there is the unfortunate truth that there are reports of people falling off skateboards, fatalities, and even of people using the app to draw players to a destination and rob them.
But, as someone who plays and is in the prime demographic for people who play this game–I’m 25 years old and I grew up pretty invested in the Pokémon games–from what I’ve seen playing this game in my neighborhood and around the city is that it can actually create community. I live in Seattle, and in a major city people don’t tend to interact with each other too often, but this game has shifted that. I went to a small park in the neighborhood last Tuesday around 8 p.m. and there were 30 people playing and chatting with each other. Not to mention, you can join one of three teams in the game and take over gyms as a team, which gets people interacting even more. The PokéStops in the game are also based on different geographical marks around you whether those are storefronts or pieces of art and they’re generally accompanied by a description – I’ve discovered numerous pieces of community art and historic spots around that I would have never known about.
The popularity of Pokémon Go is mind-blowing, and really sort of crazy, but I really think it’s actually great thing. It’s important to always be safe, of course, and not play while you drive, remain aware of your surroundings, and refrain from going places you wouldn’t normally feel comfortable going alone. Just remember, you’re playing in an augmented reality, but real life is still happening around you, so interact with that, too. Pay attention to the spots that you’re at, and the people around you. A simple “Are you playing Pokémon?” or “What team are you on?” has gotten me to meet handfuls of people in the last week – and you could, too.