Pokémon Go, box art, video game, title, space, Pokémon, Pokéball

Gotta catch ’em all

Ben has been snared by Pokémon Go’s unique charms. We managed to drag him away from his local Pokéstop long enough to give us some thoughts on the first killer app for the world of AR.

Title overview
Name: Pokémon Go
Developer: Niantic Inc
Publisher: Niantic Inc
Release date: July 2016
PEGI rating: Not listed
Platforms: Android, iOS
More information: Official website

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Ben says…

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re aware of the phenomenon that is Pokémon Go and the associated hullabaloo that goes with it. If you’re in the ranks of the uninitiated, then this is a wildly successful mobile phone app that combines GPS technology with Nintendo’s ‘pocket monster’ brand to allow players to wander around the streets training and battling the monsters (or ‘Pokémon’) they collect.

The install base is already gigantic and depending on the research you read, there have been more downloads already than there are Twitter users. At the time of writing, the game hasn’t yet been released in Japan so it’s likely the figures will improve further in Nintendo’s core and very tech-savvy market.

The way that this popularity has manifested has been in conversations from school playgrounds to offices, mixed in with individuals or groups wandering around their towns actively hunting for new, more powerful creatures.

The process is simple and anyone can pick it up, play and understand the core concepts. If there’s one criticism that can be levelled it’s that the techniques required to truly progress assume the player has a knowledge of twenty years of the brand’s history. Gyms, stops, transfers and evolutions are remarkably opaque for what is supposed to be an accessible product. Having sunk a considerable amount of time into it I can’t help but think a more involved tutorial or even basic tooltips would be a vast improvement.

That said, the design and balance of the reward loop is excellent and you’re never encouraged to spend money (it’s free-to-play) to progress. Most importantly there isn’t a sense of a paywall in order to access the higher levels. That said, players regularly run out of Pokéballs (the tool used to snare monsters) and if you don’t happen to live in a town or an area with a lot of landmarks (places where supplies can be replenished) then the design and pay element is weighted against you.

I’m fortunate enough to work in London and live outside the city so I’m spoiled for choice. Were I a farmer in Norfolk then I doubt I’d be so positive. Something for Niantic Inc and The Pokémon Company to address in the future if they want to retain their player base outside of well-populated towns.

Most importantly though, the game is acting as a way of getting people out of the house and active. Kids, teens and adults are walking miles on their hunts. When they converge on a Pokégym or Pokéstop there is an instant ice-breaker and shared interest in the form of the title. Yes, there will always be stories of unscrupulous types looking to cause tragedy and harm but the positives are plain to see.

Me? I’m very much in the camp of it being a good thing. I love seeing people young and old out and about trying to catch ‘em all. In a climate of negativity and daily bad news a happy story on a truly global scale should be praised and celebrated.

I hope you agree.

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