Pokémon Go and New Technology Innovation

Jackie playing Pokemon at True Foods

Unless you have been living in a cave, you are aware of the Pokémon Go phenomenon. Pokémon Go is a free augmented-reality app from Niantic that sends players outside to walk around collecting Pokémon.

Pokémon is a Japanese media franchise created in 1995. The franchise began as a pair of video games for the original Game Boy, developed by Game Freak and published by Nintendo. The franchise now spans video games, trading card games, animated television shows and movies, comic books, and toys. Pokémon is the second-most successful and lucrative video game-based media franchise in the world, behind only Nintendo’s Mario franchise. Depending on your age, either you grew up with this or your kids did.

Just like the original Pokémon game, Pokémon Go players become Pokémon trainers. To find the Pokémon (fictional creatures), you create an avatar that appears on an accurate map, using your device’s GPS. As you and your avatar take a walk, the game augments your reality to make it seem that animated monsters randomly appear in your surroundings. As you look at the real world through your device’s camera, you may find a Pokémon in your living room, in your garden or down the street. In addition to collecting hundreds of Pokémon, you will pick up virtual gear by visiting real-world places that the game has deemed Pokéstops. And you can join teams with other players to train and fight Pokémon (no violence is shown) in locations called “gyms.” That is the gist of it… It has got children and adults off their couch and running around outside – that is the upside (some are walking out into traffic and chasing Pokémon in inappropriate places – but that is another story).

What most people don’t know is that Niantic’s Ingress – another mobile device augmented-reality game – has been around since December 2013. It was (is) played by a select few gaming geeks. It was the Pokémon Go brand that brought this technology to the world.

As with many technologies that have been around for a while, they don’t get traction until the right brand brings it to a larger market – like Apple bringing touch to phone or Netflix bringing the subscription economy to movie rental. And that is innovation.