Pokémon GO has only been out for a week and its official – the game is a smash hit. The new game takes the classic Gameboy series you played in elementary school to the next level; allowing players to “catch” Pokémon in the real world through the use of augmented reality and GPS on your phone. The game has already become the most popular mobile game in US history, and is addictive to both kids and adults alike. Having just tried the game last night, I couldn’t shake a key question while playing… what does it all mean?
Pokémon GO requires players to get outside in order to find Pokémon, as the app tracks your movement and location through the use of GPS and digital map technology. Pokémon appear randomly in the world and when found, are superimposed in the real world through the use of your phone’s camera. This has led to something amazing that hasn’t happened since the late 90s, kids are actually going outside again! Parents across the country are rejoicing with the reality that their kids are out of the house attempting to catch virtual Pokémon, albeit staring at the screens on their phones.
Along with kids finally getting some fresh air, the way Pokémon GO blurs reality with the virtual, although rather crudely, points to a change in gaming that is poised to flip the industry on its head. Virtual and augmented reality is just starting to break into the mainstream, and this game is a major stepping stone for the technology. While it was once required to sit in front of the TV to experience a game externally, soon we will strap on a pair of goggles and live game worlds as if they were real. At this point, it is not hard to imagine a future where games are totally indistinguishable from reality, a sobering idea requiring a thesis to get a grasp of.
The game is also changing the way we relate to local businesses. Features in the game encourage players to visit local landmarks and businesses in order to find Pokémon and items. This gives business owners an opportunity to interact with their customers in a way that hasn’t really been seen before. Promotions can be tied into the use of the game in order to encourage players to visit one’s shop, and this is already being done in areas where the game is available. The future of social media marketing will likely tweak these ideas and offer a much more interactive experience between businesses and their customers, offering potential to increase customer engagement and therefore sales.
Other business implications for the game, and virtual reality in general, are plentiful. Imagine a virtual home tour, where one can experience the look and feel of a new house first hand through an augmented virtual reality simulator. The same concept could be applied to stores such as IKEA, where customers could browse store offerings without even leaving their couch. More pragmatic ideas exist as well, such as using VR to stream surgeries for medical students so they can learn without even being in the hospital. The sky is the limit for virtual reality and we haven’t even gotten started, but in the meantime I will continue my quest to becoming a true Pokémon Master!
Article by Peter Wywrot