Is Pokémon Go AR's Killer App? August 2016
Want more free featured content?
Subscribe to Insights in Brief
In July 2016, Niantec released Pokémon Go, an augmented-reality (AR) game based on the long-running Pokémon franchise. Users of the application use a smartphone or tablet computer to locate virtual cartoon monsters in real-world locations. The application uses a combination of the device's satellite-navigation functions and augmented reality. Users view a video feed from the device's camera, which is overlaid with the virtual creatures.
The game achieved a large user base in a very short time. Industry analysts estimate that the game reached over 10 million downloads within the first week of availability and between 20 million and 30 million downloads worldwide within two weeks. Analysts also estimate that, in the initial weeks following launch, the game was generating $1.6 million in daily revenue, and users were using the app for longer than they used other leading smartphone apps such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. The game developed as a collaboration between several groups, and Nintendo, which was only peripherally involved in the game, saw its market capitalization rise dramatically in the weeks following the launch of the game.
Compelling content is critical for encouraging users to adopt a new technology. Pokémon Go has seemingly hit a nail on the head and provided a popular and engaging AR experience. The barrier to entry for the game was also deliberately low, with many users' already owning smartphones and tablets that are capable of running the application. More expensive headset-based systems would likely offer users a more compelling experience, but most highly touted AR systems are not yet ready for the market and, in any case, would require users to make a substantial investment, in comparison with a portable device that the user already owns.
Apple and Google haven't released precise download figures, so quotes in the media of the number of downloads and daily users are only estimates. Nevertheless, Apple has confirmed that the game has broken the App store's record for downloads in its first week. The success of Pokémon Go almost certainly has more to do with the long-term success of the Pokémon franchise than with the particular use of AR in the game. The actual visual AR component is only a minor part of the overall experience at present, and—with time—users may come to view the app as a compelling game with an attached AR gimmick.
The popularity of the game will likely benefit future AR applications because the game is familiarizing consumers both with the underlying concept and with potential benefits of AR technology. App and game developers will also likely take note of Pokémon Go and view AR as a potentially neglected area for development.
The game's minimum requirements exclude some older or more basic smartphones, and the popularity of the game may lead to a modest surge in new handset sales in the short to medium term.