PokemonGO Gets Your Users on the Move
Software development company Niantic launched PokémonGo Wednesday evening and my Facebook feed is already blowing up. For those of us who grew up playing and watching Pokémon, this app’s release is like a dream come true. Utilizing augmented-reality technology and your smartphone’s GPS functionality, you can now experience Pokémon in the real world with this app. What makes PokémonGO so different from previous games within the franchise is that to excel as a player, you have to physically explore your surroundings by walking around town and visiting landmarks. If you’re wondering what any of this has to do with the transportation industry, sit tight and allow me to walk you through a brief overview of the Pokémon World to help you fully understand how this app is a game-changer.
In 1996, Pokémon was released to the Japanese public in the form of two Gameboy Games, Leaf Green and Fire Red. The name “Pokémon” is the mashup of the words “pocket” and “monster”; the idea being that you, as a Pokémon Trainer, can catch these little monsters via your Pokéballs, which can shrink and fit in your pocket.
Once you catch the Pokémon, you can train it to become stronger by battling other Pokémon and other trainers. Depending on the Pokémon species, your Pokémon can evolve into a higher and stronger form.
The more you travel as a Trainer in these games, the more Pokémon you see and have the chance to catch and train. Each of the towns you visit has it’s own PokéGym with a gym leader. When you defeat the Gym Leader, you are awarded a badge that will help you gain entrance into the Pokémon League to battle the most elite trainers and become the “very best”.
And the more Pokémon you catch, the better player you are. So you “gotta catch ‘em all!”
Pokémon hit the United States in 1998 with great force. Before long, a TV show, several movies, and more Pokémon developed. However, as we all pined for a real-life Pikachu, the universe stayed within our collectible cards, game consoles, and television screens.
Fast-forward to 2014: Google announced a way for you to become the greatest Pokémon Trainer by searching and exploring Google Maps to collect Pokémon. The users who caught all 150 Pokémon would be invited to Google Headquarters to battle it out for a chance to become a Google employee. Unfortunately, this was an elaborate April Fool’s prank, but plenty of users spent hours scouring the world for Pokémon to catch by the April 2nd deadline. And while limited, this experience finally brought Pokémon closer to existing in our world.
Unlike the promotional video, the “Google Maps: Pokémon Challenge” existed entirely with the Maps interface; PokémonGO is an incredibly immersive step forward. Not only that, but instead of sitting in front of a screen for hours-on-end, players must get up and explore the area. Within the game, your town’s landmarks are positioned as “PokéStops” where players can acquire supplies to better catch Pokémon. By walking or running down streets and sidewalks, players will encounter wild Pokémon and have the chance to catch them, all within the app. Here are some screenshots of how the app works:
First, I meet the Professor who provides the objective of the game.
This is my chance to catch one of the three starter Pokémon that the Professor has so generously donated to my cause. I chose Charmander, of course; but first, I have to catch him (as he stands on my desk).
Now that I’ve caught Charmander, it’s time to do as the Professor says and go exploring!
There appears to be a Pokéstop near my office, so I’ll walk over there to check it out and stock up on supplies. This particular Pokéstop is the Historic Textile Supply Building. Who knew?
A wild Pokémon has appeared while I was walking around the office building. I’ll have to get closer to it if I want to catch it.
Once caught, this Pidgey will be added to my Pokédex and allow me to level up.
What PokémonGO does is essentially force people, like me, who would otherwise stay at home in front of a screen, to go out and explore their environment so they can catch as many Pokémon as possible. And the more I’m out and about, the more I’m going to use my city’s transportation options because, dangit, I want my Pikachu! By getting players to visit local landmarks, Niantic and the Pokémon franchise are getting players to explore their city in a very fun way.