We all live in a Pokémon world; it turns out that we just never had the technology to see all the Pokémon around us before. With the advent of smartphone cameras, Niantic, Nintendo and The Pokémon Company have all teamed up to bring their catchable critters into the mobile space with Pokémon Go, and it seems that the public cannot get enough. The game has been responsible for a massive increase in Nintendo’s share price, and has taken over our Facebook and Twitter feeds comprehensively.
We at Power Up Gaming are not immune to the game’s charm either. Here are our initial thoughts on the game, along with the unique experiences we’ve had so far.
I’ve fallen pretty heavily into Pokémon Go over the last few days. For someone who has a fairly long walk into work, Pokémon Go has kept me amused during my journey, proving to be the ideal excuse to stay glued to my phone as I amble through the crowds of early morning commuters.
Despite not being officially available in the UK, I’ve found that doesn’t seem to have deterred people from playing the game in my area. Granted, I live in a rather urban location, but the appetite for this game seems very high over on these shores. For those in the UK who aren’t already on Pokémon Go and would like to be, PC Advisor has a great guide to getting it installed.
The collectable aspect of Pokémon is as strong here as it always has been. Catching ‘mons is a simple affair which sees you swiping a Pokéball towards the Pokémon and, with a little mixture of luck and skill, adding it to your collection. The radar in the bottom right gives an indication as to which Pokémon are nearby, giving you an added incentive to walk around in circles until you find the types that you are looking for. The way in which this ties into real-world locations is rather compelling. For example, I live near a fairly large body of water, so I’ve been able to pick up a lot of water Pokémon on my travels (no Squirtle yet though). At the other end there is also a museum, in which I’ve found plenty of Gastlys and even Haunters knocking around in the car park. I’m unclear as to what other locations influence the types of Pokémon that show up, but it has left me pining for a trip to Mt. Vesuvius in order to pick up a Magmar.
However, I believe that the high uptake locally has really made a difference to my experience with the game. As a solitary experience, I doubt I would have found it quite as engaging. With several Gyms in walking distance, I have been making sure to capture them for my team (Team Valor blasts off at the speed of light). The battling aspect is simplistic and can mostly be performed by tapping the screen repeatedly, but the social aspect is quite compelling. On a walk I came across two teenagers sat on a bench, excitedly yelling at their smartphones. After checking the app, I could see that they were capturing a Gym, represented on screen with a bunch of special effects to show that a fight was taking place. On my walk home, I made sure to pass that way and capture the Gym back.
While passing a nearby shopping outlet, I stumbled across a group of around 20 people who were all stood around swiping furiously at their phones. Pulling out my own phone, I fired up Pokémon Go, only to discover that someone had put a lure module down. This acts like a beacon, and any surrounding players are able to turn up and catch any rare Pokémon that may have been lured in. I got a Magnemite and a Dratini out of it, which was a spot of luck.
There are countless similar stories out there of Pokémon Go bringing people out of their homes and into public spaces. People are making friends through this app, which is a positive outcome as far as I’m concerned. Who knows how long the zeitgeist surrounding this game will last, but Nintendo and Niantic will be hoping to sustain it for some time yet. Here’s looking forward to whatever Pokémon Go has in store in the future.
A few weeks ago, I texted a friend of mine “Happy Father’s Day” in anticipation of his baby boy who was to be born this past weekend. As soon as I heard the news of a little Anthony coming into the world, I jumped on Facebook frantically searching for photos of his new born child. After scrolling through a small album of pictures of my exhausted looking friend forcing a smile after an undoubtedly stressful, but no less life changing delivery, the next Facebook post read, “I ran out of Pokéballs. What am I supposed to do?”
Um… I don’t know. Be an ‘effing father?
It was then where I began to realize how much of an obnoxious success Pokémon Go has become. Pokémon Go has already claimed its first car accident. Pokémon Go has already claimed its first robbery. Pokémon Go has my staff tossing Pokéballs behind the wheel (should I write them up?). Pokémon Go has had people raid my other friend’s convenient store, and the White House. Pokémon Go is has more active users than Twitter, and is now chasing Snapchat. Pokémon Go has fooled CBS into shooting this embarrassing video:
It’s unknown if Niantic, The Pokémon Company, and Nintendo boasted a genius business strategy in Pokémon Go’s release, or this happened by pure, sheer luck. We’re in a season where major game releases are at a drip feed, and it’s nice enough outside to take long leisurely walks. But these two variables still doesn’t explain how the app has made over $14 Million with roughly 21 Million active users and RAPIDLY counting, or why my wife’s receptionist coworkers are running around the office with their phones out whispering, “There’s a Squirtle around here somewhere…”
This new, dare I call it, social phenomenon is just the beginning of what could possibly be a redefinition of how people interact with their phones and their environment, turning them into literal virtual portals to a parallel world. Niantic is of course no stranger to this concept, as their previous game – Ingress – has made similar waves before, but nowhere close to this magnitude. It begins, of course after the sheer brand recognition, with Go’s simplicity. Pokémon Go’s base mechanics of tossing Pokéballs is a brilliant decision, as it allows players to skip the hassle of battling and weakening Pokémon if the intent is to have you catch Pokémon while you on the (ahem) go; there’s no need to stop once you’ve began engaging a wild Pokémon . This works well for passengers in vehicles going roughly less then 40 mph (notice I said passengers, not DRIVERS) and those that are walking about their neighborhood.
Pokémon Go also has an incredibly smart community aspect based on Niantic’s former Google technology. Count on landmarks in your town as being Pokéstops, locations where you can gather items for your Poke-ventures. One of the coolest things I saw was an activation of a Lure Module – an item that once activated, attract several Pokemon to that location – and then witnessed several people on their phones congregate to that one spot. The location data changes the way you view your surroundings, however for me, this is also Pokemon Go’s biggest weakness.
I’ve seen screenshots of players in San Francisco, and viewed my Go app in the rural area that I work in. The amount of Pokémon that show up and Pokéstops on the map positively dwarf what’s available in my very suburban neighborhood. Pokémon Go simply sucks for those that live in less industrialized and heavily residential areas. This could even explain why some have resorted to playing Go while behind the wheel as a way to venture out to catch Pokémon without having to walk extreme distances to only run into a Pidgey. Niantic has reported that they plan on delivering bi-weekly updates for the app, lets hope that those updates include more love for those of us that live out here in Bumblefuck, USA.
Despite the rough beginnings of some Pokémon scarcity, security issues, and non stop server problems, Pokémon Go has somehow transcended our hopes and dreams of what the much fantasized Pokémon MMO would have been, and is, by all accounts, an undeniable cultural success.