By now, most people are at least aware of the cultural phenomenon that Pokémon Go has become, and are probably players themselves. An estimated 15 million users downloaded the app within the first week, with current estimates closer to 100 million users worldwide. The game has been the topic of numerous headlines; everything from users being robbed and finding dead bodies, to some being severely injured, or even killed while playing. That being said, the effects of the game aren’t all bad. Due to its interactive nature, users are required walk around the real world in order to discover new virtual “pocket monsters,” leading to an increase in physical activity, and experts have even noticed mental health benefits for users that have previously struggled with depression and anxiety.
The question then becomes, how did a game based on characters who gained popularity nearly 20 years ago become a worldwide sensation? The answer is simple enough, when you understand that the platform the game is built upon is the next step in a world of ever-advancing technology.
The New World of Augmented Reality
The projection of a virtual image into the real world, viewable on the screen of a phone, tablet, or wearable device, is achieved through a technology known as Augmented Reality. It’s different from other tech such as virtual reality and holograms, because rather than placing the user in an exclusively virtual environment, or projecting a virtual image into the real world, augmented reality is the partnership between virtual and true reality being combined through a device.
While the technology has existed for years, this is the first time it has garnered mainstream popularity. While not on the same scale as Pokémon Go, other augmented reality apps such as Blippar can undoubtedly benefit from the increased attention on the technology, and tech giants such as Apple, Microsoft, and Google have also expanded research in the field. This should come as no surprise, as Pokémon Go users spent more than $250 million within the five weeks since its launch, all of which are all in-app purchases, since the game itself is free to play. Additionally, it has become the most downloaded app ever on both the Apple App Store and Google Play. The 25 million average daily users in the United States are using the app more than 30 minutes a day; more than Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Niantic, the company responsible for Pokémon Go, previously tested the waters of augmented reality in 2013 with their game Ingress, a massive multiplayer online game rooted in science fiction with an open narrative. Their partnership with Nintendo to develop Pokémon Go led to skyrocketing stocks, adding $9 billion to the gaming giant’s valuation in only five days. After it was revealed that Nintendo did not produce the game itself, that valuation then dropped by 18%. However, the economic impact the game has isn’t limited to the stock market; businesses that are tagged as “PokéStops,” where users can stock up on supplies that help them advance in the game, have also seen an increase in traffic.
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