How Pokémon Go caught ‘em all (or at least a lot!)

You likely have contributed to the 100+ million downloads of the extremely popular game, Pokémon Go. By now, you have explored all parts of your neighborhood and the nearby neighborhoods with the hope to discover a dragonite or a snorlax only to run into those pesky pidgeys and diglets. You know where the nearest pokéstops on to refill on the necessary pokéballs for catching the pokémon, potions for treating the wounds, and eggs to (hopefully) hatch new pokémon to add to your pokédex, to name a few. By this time, you must have reached level five and have chosen a team (ahem: Team Mystic) and spread the word to your friends to join your team.

Your daily life consists of going to work and asking colleagues and friends what level they’re on, just to make sure they haven’t passed you. You spend your time googling which pokémon are the strongest and what is the best strategy to evolve them. You watch the news to hear what yet another addicting Pokémon Go player did to catch a rare pokémon which made for the warnings: “Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings.” and “Do not trespass while playing Pokémon Go.”

By the off chance you don’t play, you likely hear all the updates through your friends or family and know how the game works (and probably are aware of at least a handful of the names of the pokémon). You also find it strange (and maybe by now, quite normal) when you pass by a park or a beach and find people there walking around with their phones in front of them, even at 2AM, swiping carefully at their screen to make sure they capture the pokémon perfectly so that it won’t escape the pokéball.

It’s crazy, isn’t it? Just over a month back, none of this existed.

So, how and why did Pokémon Go gain this must popularity?

For millennials, this game triggers a very unique memory. The memory of sitting at home watching Ash Ketchum go on and explore the world with the hope in one day becoming a Pokémon master alongside his companion, Pikachu. The adventures he goes through, friends he makes (Misty/Brock) and obstacles he overcomes (Team Rocket) are all a part of the nostalgic feeling they get when they think about Pokémon. It is the emotional aspect that attracts them. It brings back pleasant memories of their childhood and lets them live and experience an adventure in real life that they once only saw on their television screen. Essentially, it allows them to feel themselves what they once only felt vicariously.

The second attractive part of the game is user interaction. Pokémon Go offers a unique and diverse element: it allows strangers to become connected through a simple download. It allows them to meet people while walking or have a chat with them while waiting for the pokéstop to become active again. It gives the opportunity to work alongside others trying to capture pokémon at the parks or beaches (with the hope to finally get a damned Vaporean). And provides the chance to join a Pokémon Go meetup or create a group of their own to explore and hopefully capture rare pokémon. It brings people together.

Thirdly, it changes every-day life. An office is no longer an office, it’s a pokéstop. The coffee shop down the street that they never attended is one they attend daily, because the structure (that they may not have even noticed before) next to it is a gym. They take their dog for a walk so that they can add steps for their egg to hatch. And if they go on a trip? Even better! Exploring new cities can only help in obtaining new Pokémon. This game changes daily habits and perspectives of what once seemed like normal places and things.

Fourthly, it changes marketing for business. For example, the small bookstore down the street may now gain attraction because it contains a few strong pokémon. Or the local diner can gain popularity and sales due to its creative marketing strategy of placing lures to attract people. And, the walk to capture the pokémon or to hatch the eggs can help fitness companies like FitBit with their sales growth. The marketing world has changed completely due to the community relationship and first-hand interaction that Pokémon Go offers.

So, what makes Pokémon Go popular? It triggers a memory. It engages people. It makes the real world as a platform to play. It’s full of surprises and rewards. It’s competitive. And, it’s unique.

Karishma Shah