Ready, set, Pokémon GO!
In the week since the launch of Pokémon GO in the United States, it has already surpassed Tinder as the most downloaded mobile app on Android. Yesterday Pokémon GO was made available to players in the United Kingdom and its success shows no signs of stopping as the app continues to be released around the world. While some are asking whether this augmented reality (AR) game is proof that this format is better than virtual reality, others like Steve Dann, Founder and CEO of Amplified Robot, are wondering what took Pokémon so long to merge their game with AR?
I think Pokémon was already a huge phenomenon in its own right and has been for a number of years. People in the AR business knew that as soon as you could look at AR on a smartphone, a brand like Pokémon would transition across and, to be quite honest, I am surprised it has taken them this long.
Last time I checked the app had been downloaded 65 million times, which surpasses the app Tinder, and this has all been achieved within a week. I think their success is a combination of being a fantastic game, as well as fitting perfectly into the AR framework for a smartphone. Pokémon has combined what you can do with AR by overlaying it with the real world and also added in a geo-location feature; making Pokémon GO the perfect storm for a successful AR game and clearly, many people still harbor a love for it.
Is this testament that AR is a better fit for games than VR?
If Pokémon didn’t exist and you were looking to write the perfect AR game you’d probably come up with something pretty close to it. In the past companies have tried to combine AR with gaming but only with moderate success. Niantic was the company chosen to develop Pokémon GO , who also created a similar game for Google called Ingress. However, it’s the brand name Pokémon and the fact it’s accessible on a smartphone that has made the app so successful.
I think Pokémon has done extremely well with their first AR game. AR has been around for a while and continues to transition as new ways of looking at AR have come along. When we first started Amplified Robot you needed a camera on a computer to make AR work properly and now thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets it has taken AR technology to the next level. I don’t think I could fault Pokémon GO considering the delivery mechanisms that are available right now; the only way to push the game further is by using smart glasses.
Rumour has it that Pokémon GO will soon support Google Cardboard and become a VR game, is this wise?
Combining AR with VR gives an extra dimension to what you can do visually. I can see that working extremely well for Pokémon and in the future, you could probably transition the game onto a product like Microsoft Hololens because it gives the appearance of the characters being even more in your environment than on a smartphone or tablet.
While VR removes the player from the real world, I also see it as an opportunity to create a rich virtual reality environment that you could wonder around and play the game in.
Pokémon GO: a trend or new way of gaming?
This phenomenon has propelled AR back into people’s consciousness and I suspect, like any classic game, it’s difficult to come up with new ways and ideas to extend its longevity. I think Pokémon GO is testament to the importance of having a great concept because even years after its initial launch on Game Boy, Pokémon is still able to reinvent itself by entering the AR market and find new ways to engage the original brand with a modern audience.