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Pokémon GO & The Rise of the Instant Platform

7 MINUTE READ | July 20, 2016

Pokémon GO & The Rise of the Instant Platform

Pokémon GO has become a cultural phenomenon. The mobile game sensation is currently available throughout North America, Europe, and Australia/New Zealand. Its combination of explosive user adoption and augmented reality technology have experts far and wide calling it, pun intended, “a game changer.” In fact, due to its close connection and interaction with the “real world,” you could argue that Pokémon GO is beyond just a breakthrough in mobile gaming, or even social media. It is a platform onto itself.

And you would be right.

In less than a week, publisher Nintendo and developer Niantic have launched a digital platform with audiences rivaling the giants like Twitter and Facebook in terms of Daily Users and Engagement, respectively. In fact, TechCrunch recently reported that 5% of all Android users in the US play the game at least once a day. The success has been so great, that Nintendo’s market value is reported to have grown anywhere from $7 – $9 Billion. From one game. In one week.

And it’s just the beginning.

Daily Active Users for Pokémon GO quickly catching up to Twitter.

Daily Active Users for Pokémon GO quickly catching up to Twitter.

Pokémon GO players are far more engaged than with any major social network.

Pokémon GO players are far more engaged than with any major social network.

The real catalyst for this Game-as-Instant-Platform revolution is its connection to the real world. To play the game, or at least if you want to be any good at it, you have to venture outside the comfy confines of your living room. Success in Pokémon GO means getting your butt off the couch and out of the house. When players do go a-hunting for magical monsters, they gravitate towards two types of in-game locations: PokéStops and Training Gyms.

The difference between PokeStops and Training Gyms

The difference between PokeStops and Training Gyms

PokéStops are locations in-game where players can spin every five-ish minutes to gain items. One of the in-game items, Lures, can also be used at these locations to attract additional Pokémon creatures. Anyone near a PokéStop when a Lure is active (they last for 30 minutes), will have a much greater chance at catching Pokémon.

Training Gyms are locations where players can pit their Pokémon creatures against one another in an effort to power the gym up and gain experience. These locations provide the greatest immediate opportunity for local businesses.

The first opportunity revolves around PokéStops and the Lures we just mentioned. Many businesses have discovered that they have PokéStops located within their very establishments or immediately nearby. By placing Lures at these locations, they’ve been able to create a surge in foot traffic, for nothing more than the cost of the Lures (approx. $0.50/each). Since each one lasts 30 minutes, the increased foot traffic carries a cost of around $1.00/hour. Results so far have varied, and any official case studies have yet to be released.

Gyms are a slightly different story. Since Lures are of no use at these locations, a more active campaign is required. Some businesses will offer discounts to any belonging to the “Team” currently in control of the Gym (Pokémon players must choose to join a team – Red, Blue, or Yellow – once they reach level 5 and wish to visit a Gym). Hot Topic, who currently stocks a large amount of Pokémon related products, has offered a 25% discount, just for showing an in-store cashier your current collection of Pokémon. As with any platform, it’s important to find promotions that align well with your brand.

So, how do you know if your locations are homes to PokéStops or Gyms? To do that, we need to have a little history lesson on the developer of Pokémon GO, Niantic.

In November 2012, Niantic launched their first GPS-powered “exergame,” Ingress. Ingress was a sci-fi game that required players to visit real-world locations which doubled as “dimensional portals” in-game. Players joined factions and fought for control of such portals. These portals would eventually become PokéStops and Gyms four years later.

Portal locations in Ingress were done through a form of crowdsourcing. Players could recommend locations as potential portals. The Niantic team reviewed player data, public information, etc. and determined if the location was a good fit. Over the years, Niantic gathered vast location data, especially around foot traffic patterns in major cities.

When it came time to build Pokémon GO, Niantic took advantage of their wealth of data, and ported those locations from Ingress into Pokémon GO for PokéStops and Gyms.So, how do we use Niantic data to determine if our locations align with PokéStops or Gyms?

Ingress is still alive and well, and so is its map of portal locations. As long you have a connected Google account with Ingress, you can view the map here.

30 Rockefeller Plaza as seen in Ingress Map.

30 Rockefeller Plaza as seen in Ingress Map.

Since Ingress utilizes live MapQuest and Google Maps data, you can enter in any real world address into the Ingress map to get a close up of that location. Any Blue or Green octagon should correlate with a PokéStop or Gym in Pokémon GO.

It’s a laborious process, entering addresses in one at a time, to verify locations. However, the process could potentially be automated via script for those with a large number of physical locations. Once you know which locations have Ingress portals nearby, you’ll need to check each one from the actual location to determine if your portal corresponds.

Not all locations will have PokéStops or Gyms nearby. In fact, most won’t. Still, you can take advantage of the Pokémon fever gripping the country. Promotions, like the one mentioned from Hot Topic, are not reliant on either type of in-game location.

Also, it has been widely reported that Nintendo and Niantic will soon be opening up “Sponsored Locations.” This will give businesses an additional, and certainly more expensive, method of harnessing the Pokémon craze into real world foot traffic and revenue.

A key thing to keep in mind is that regardless of how long Pokémon GO remains popular as a game, it stands as a beginning to new kind of platform that was previously unavailable. This is the start of something new, and once again, Nintendo is at the forefront of the revolution.

Back in 2010, at the DICE conference, Carnegie Mellon professor and ex-Disney Imagineer Jesse Schell presented a talk on the future of gaming, asking the audience to think “beyond Facebook.” His 30-minute talk on the future of gamification so accurately predicts the past week that you’d think he was the mind behind Pokémon GO.

It is also no coincidence that such a monumental sea change comes from Nintendo, a company much older, and far more innovative than many give it credit for.In the video game industry, Nintendo has been behind nearly every major evolution of the past 30 years. They are credited with:

  • Reinvigorating the home console market after its collapse in 1983 (NES launch in 1986)

  • First “handheld” console (the Gameboy in 1989)

  • First “3D VR home console system” (Nintendo Virtual Boy in 1995)

  • First “Haptic feedback controller” (N64 Rumble Pak in 1996)

  • First Analog Joystick in modern console (N64 controller in 1996)

  • First Wireless Radio controller (“Wavebird” controller for GameCube in 2001)

  • First major motion-controlled console (Nintendo Wii in 2006)

For years, Nintendo has been hesitant to get into the mobile game market, despite nearly inventing it with the success of the Gameboy, DS, and 3DS. They always insisted that when they decided to get into the market, they would do right, and they would do it their way.

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They certainly did not disappoint.


Posted by Jonathan Hunt

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