Pokénomenon: Pokémon GO Takes Over

A Caterpie may change into a Butterfree, but the heart that beats inside remains the same.
— Brock, Pokémon Trainer & Pewter City gym leader

What is Pokémon GO? 

For many people the name Pokémon will be synonymous with a never ending anime show or countless hours on the Nintendo Gameboy, grinding levels with a fire dragon or water turtle so you can beat your rival. Merchandise boomed with trading cards, with such a popular following that entire market stalls were dedicated to selling them, and so many plush toys that bedrooms became museums to yellow, electric mice. For those who have no idea about any of this, where have you been?

Pokémon GO is the latest release from Nintendo, designed specifically for mobiles devices such as Apple or Android phones/tablets. To say it has been well received would be an incredible understatement! Social media feeds are filled with Pokémon GO stories and guides. In fact, social media has taken a back seat to the sheer level of people playing this game - and this is before it has even reached a global release. 

The game uses real-world maps and GPS locating to send players outdoors in search of new and stronger pocket monsters. 'Trainers' can visit gyms to battle others, level up their Pokémon and fight for ownership of that location. Likewise they can visit Pokéstops for gifts such as extra Poké Balls or Poké Eggs. It all may sound like total madness but for so many people this has quickly become the best thing since sliced bread.

Why is it so popular?

For many it is pure nostalgia. This isn't just for kids but a significant market of 25-35 years olds who remember the show and games with fondness. It is the ability to live in an augmented reality where these creatures actually exist. The use of an interface that reacts to you based on your surroundings and the time of day has carried Pokémon GO from inception to reality in true style. 

For others it is a new concept. How many games with even half the popularity can incite players out into the wide world instead of holing them up indoors? So much of the concept relies on a sense of adventure, to explore and see what you can find. Without this element it is likely the game would be minus a following of this level.

Stats

The statistics surrounding the game are incredible. For example, US users number somewhere around 26 million and are generating a daily revenue in the millions of dollars (the game is free by the way). In less than 24 hours it topped the App Store in download numbers, breaching a record previously held by Tinder, and has users spending more average time on it, in a typical session, than Twitter. 

For countries that haven't seen the game released yet there is a frenzy of anticipation. Rio de Janeiro's mayor has even asked that the game be released in Brazil, ahead of the upcoming Olympics.

Some interesting Pokémon GO tales

With the social media world aflutter with all things Pokémon some amazing stories have come to light.

One man was able to catch a Pokémon hanging out on a maternity ward...while his wife was in labour, while another woman  advertised herself as a professional Pokémon trainer on Craigslist ($20/hour).

Meanwhile, a huge crowd rushed to Central Park (New York) to try and capture one of the more elusive creatures, as can be seen in the Vimeo below. 

Pokémon GO in schools?

It is likely that schools have had to accept that mobile devices are the norm for today's learners and hard to police. It is even more likely that the release of this game will see students stumbling around school with their faces glued to the screen more than ever before. But can this phenomenon be used to engage learners; to utilise a desire to be outdoors and exercising?

Cross Country running, for example, is a subject of trepidation and embarrassment for many. However, would those reluctant to run across muddy fields be more willing if catching Pokémon was a part of it? The clear fact that it has caused many, many teens to go outside and be more active is undeniable. 

In terms of skills being taught there are elements of team work, social interaction, technical learning, reading maps, and English skills. As you look at younger learners there is also the possible additions of sensory learning - using sights and sounds to explore and engage with the world. 

Outside the learning circle there are possible marketing opportunities that can be used. School open days could benefit from enticing parents along with the promise of Pokémon, courtesy of purchasable in-game items. The 'lure module' is one such item that actively attracts Pokémon to a certain location. It appears on the player's map as petals and already has been used by places such as coffee shops to help bring more custom in.

It would come as little to no surprise if schools quickly begin to look at ways Pokémon GO can be used, instead of fearing or abolishing it from their place of learning. Potential lingers and it is the duty of educators to tap into this for the benefit of their learners.

What do you think?

We would love to hear your thoughts and comments on Pokémon GO below.