Pokémon GO Augmented Reality: Maybe I should also catch them all?
It hit me like a storm in the night. It first came as a bad joke over a Steam chat about some guy deriding the Lion City for its lack of participation in the Pokémon GO madness. A short while later a random Facebook comment in a similar fashion to this article’s title popped up of nowhere.
Then I got a message from my boss saying how we should cover this big new thing that’s got the better part of the Western world in its furry yellow paws. Yes, Pokémon GO has taken the gaming world by storm.
Gotta Catch Them All – This time in Augmented Reality.
Like its predecessors, Pokémon GO is a game about collecting, training and then pitting cute monster pets in death matches with either the computer or with other players.
Except this time players will be doing all this in augmented reality. While the concept and application of augmented reality isn’t exactly new (fighter jets have been using a form of it, called a Heads-Up-Display a little after the later 1950s, the technology has only recently become available to the consumer market.
Augmented reality can be defined simply as the superimposing of additional layers on information via computer to our senses in the form of graphics, sound, video or GPS data.
This, combined with computer vision and object recognition, allows augmented reality to place virtual objects in relative to its user, or allow its user to interact with objects in the real world that the computer software recognizes. Electromagnetic radio waves are used by augmented reality to accurately measure real-world spatial information.
Pokémon GO Meets Real-World.
Augmented reality information can be transmitted to users through various methods like eye goggles, lenses and eyeglasses, but for Pokémon GO the phone’s camera serves as the user’s eye into the virtual world.
Using the phone’s GPS or locational services, players are required to, yes, actually get out and run about in the real-world (like how Nintendo’s Wii had players to physically play their games) to find the Poké-monsters.
Once in the vicinity, players need to use their phone’s built-in camera and, like a scrying-eye, to visually search the area for the Pokémons before tapping on them and adding them to their collection.
I was about to go into a lengthy explanation of this, but I think that perhaps it was best served by an analogy: Remember those horror flicks where ghosts and other supernatural phenomenon (or aliens, etc.) are only visible through the lens of a camera? Or If you’ve played Fatal Frame then you’d know exactly what I’m talking about.
Controversies: Accidents, crime and mishaps associated with the game.
Unique and fun as the game is, there are a few controversies casting a shadow over it. For one, parents will need to worry about their kids who, in their eagerness to ‘catch-them-all’ before it’s too late, might carelessly step out into traffic. Or if they decide to climb over into a neighbour’s compound only to be mauled by an angry Doberman.
In a case in Missouri a group of armed robbers took advantage of PokéStop beacons feature and targeted players who followed beacons to isolated areas. In Wyoming a dead body was found by 19-year-old Shayla Wiggins as she was on her way to collect her day’s PokéStop. I guess people will always find some way of destroying the perfectly fun and innocent.
Embrace it while it’s still a thing.
Because I was asked by my superiors to write about the business aspect of this phenomenon my educated opinion agrees with the following adage; “Strike while the iron is hot.”
The popularity of Pokémon GO is undeniable and even though the game has only been officially released in the US, New Zealand and Australia, according to this report by Forbes the latest addition to the Pokémon franchise has already surpassed Twitter in the number of daily active users.
The universal appeal of Pokémon is astounding and from little kids to full-grown adults, everyone probably knows someone who’s into the game.
Even region-locking hasn’t stopped die-hard fans from finding a workaround – an APK hack will allow them join the fray in the children-friendly cockfight simulator regardless. Unfortunately this trick only works for Android users and puts you at risk in hacker paradise. I’m an iOS user myself so I can’t confirm if it works or not, but you’re welcome to try.
Augmented Reality for games is not a passing fad.
There is, however, raises the ever-present question: is this simply a passing fad fuelled by the fascination for the novelty of augmented reality? The Nintendo Wii represented a true milestone in gaming back in 2006 and to date the nunchuk-swinging, controller-flinging console had clearly proven itself more than just a novelty and marketing gimmick. Last they checked it had sold 101.63 million units worldwide by 31st March, 2016.
And unlike the Wii which required players to buy a relatively expensive and exclusive machine, Pokémon Go leverages the mobile gaming market and follows a similar business model – free-to-play, in-game transactions.
Which for Nintendo has translated into a 25% jump in share value since its launch last week.
There’s already a market capable of installing and playing the game on the spot. And let’s not forget the universal appeal that is Pokémon.
This, however, could be a double-edged sword. While it is possible to take advantage of this ready market this could also mean that businesses will have to move fast to get their slice of the pie. After all, interested customers are already going to be snatching up the game before you can say ‘Pi-ka-chuuu!’
Perhaps it’s already too late, but it might not too late to use Pokémon’s universal appeal to attract brand new players.