App Engages and Re-engages Light, Medium and Serious Users
According to Apptopia, Pokémon Go ranks among the Top 10 Grossing Games as of September 2018. This augmented-reality game exploded in popularity upon its 2016 release as an iOS and Android app, and continues to dominate the market. In the last two years, players have spent $2 billion on in-app purchases. The game features the popular “Pocket Monster” characters from the global Pokémon franchise.
What’s truly remarkable is Pokémon Go’s ability to engage and reengage players at all levels (light, medium, and hardcore) over time. Let’s look into some of the factors behind the game’s enduring appeal.
One gamer offers his take on why Pokémon Go delivers a unique combination that keeps him engaged compared with other games.
“First of all, it’s not really competitive in the way other games with ranks are, and there really isn’t much ‘skill’ to make progress. It’s open and accessible to all. Pokémon Go capitalizes on the appeal of collectibles and the major brand Pokémon with literally 25+ years of positive brand equity. It keeps me involved and going back by staging releases. Right now, I’m waiting for generation four. I’m always checking out what’s cool around me when I’m outside or traveling in LA. And I can play it casually for a few minutes each day, or more intensely when it makes sense based on the cycle.”
Like all product categories, Pokémon Go has super-heavy and heavy users, along with light and medium users. The hardcore, heavy-user Pokémon Go gamers dedicate considerable time and use multiple phones and accounts. There’s even the Taiwan grandfather with 11 phones on his bicycle to catch Pokémon.
Like other games, players earn bragging rights, in this case by capturing rare Pokémon. Overall, however, the Pokémon Go culture doesn’t celebrate the attainment of high rank. It makes the experience engaging and accessible for the light and medium user. While this may seem like an obvious approach that all games (and products) should follow, in reality many games turn off new and less experienced players and lack the breadth of appeal and enduring ability to engage players at different levels. As one adult gamer explained:
“It’s a whole collection of mini motivators, including some that have nothing to do with gaming. My dog, for instance, has to be walked. A big park with nine PokéStops is within walking distance of my house, and that makes it easier for me to make progress in the game.”
In conversation with a gamer friend, we brainstormed about other brand franchises that could equal Pokémon, with 15+ years of brand equity, a widespread appeal, a collectible dimension, and an AR dimension. I thought that there might be some parallels in baseball card collections and fantasy games. You might even compare Hotwheels toy cars with their full-size counterparts, but my friend pointed out that a great thing about Pokémon is that they appear very differently visually on the small mobile screen, while cars or baseball players all look similar. An upcoming version of Harry Potter AR was also suggested as perhaps having this appeal. We eventually concluded there is no obvious comparable brand in the market today.
Pokémon Go offers valuable lessons to apps, products and brands that hope to engage multiple levels of users over time. I’d welcome additional insights from those who have thought about this topic and the insights that other brands may be able to leverage.