Pokemon Go: the first three monthsPokemon Go: the first three months

Pokemon Go: the first three months

Written by John Simpson on 27th Sep 2016

In just three short months, a mobile phone game that involves catching cartoon monsters in an augmented reality world has captured the imaginations (and headlines) of millions.

We won’t patronise you with an explanation of Pokemon Go – that can be found in an earlier blog – this time, we’re focussing on the extraordinary events that followed its launch.

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[Image credit: www.producthunt.com]

Overwhelming hype and excitement surrounding the game sparked unprecedented interest and catapulted the app into the record books for first-week downloads. It hasn’t been revealed just how many downloads that was but research suggested that 13 per cent of UK adults had downloaded the game.

Meanwhile, buzz snowballed rapidly enough to push global downloads past 500 million and make it the fastest game to rack up $500 million in revenue.

This level and rate of uptake could have been predicted but too much hype can kill you and many naysayers predicted interest would nosedive post-honeymoon. However, it seems people have stuck around after the initial buzz faded.

A drop-off was inevitable but after daily users peaked at around 44 million mid-July, some 30 million wanna-be pokemon-masters were using the app every day a month later – including one Mr Homer Simpson.

That’s a lot of people doing a fair bit of walking and according to game developer Niantic, Pokemon Go players have covered 2.8 billion miles, which is about the same distance from Earth to Pluto. The game has been played in more than 100 countries and it is still being rolled out in some regions, although Iran has banned the app due to ‘security concerns’.

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The fallout so far

Some events sparked by the game have been positive. It has been credited for generating new footfall and fresh business, mobilising typically sloth-like gamers, bringing people together and encouraging them to explore local surroundings they’d never usually venture.

Some estate agents are even sweetening their listings by including distances to nearby gyms and pokestops.

Then there’s the not-so-positive: people falling off cliffs, muggings, muggings streamed live on the internet, discovering dead bodies, even blasphemy.

Yep, an Indian attorney wants to sue the creators of the game because Hindu mythology forbids images of eggs in places of worship. Also at time of writing, one Russian video blogger is facing up to five years jail time after filming himself playing the game in a church. He is charged with mockery of religious beliefs and is appealing against the charges.


With so many eyeballs on the game, advertising opportunity was rife, and it didn’t take long for McDonald’s to become the first brand to advertise in the game when 3,000 of its Japan-based fast food outlets became Pokemon gyms.

In an interview to MarketingWeek, the chain’s CEO tried to suggest that it was a worthwhile venture, following a 3.1 per cent boost to second-quarter global sales, however, the game didn’t launch in Japan until mid-late July – ironically, as a result of the extra interest directly caused by McDonald’s involvement – so linking the two feels like undue praise.


[Image credit: Brian Miller/Flickr]

One global powerhouse may have secured advertising but the game hasn’t been flooded with ad placements and you can bet that it isn’t down to lack of interest from other similar-sized institutions.

Rather than rake in as much cash as it can while the game is hot property, Niantic has played it cool, only allowing advertising that collates with the spirit of the game. Admirable or foolish? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, Nintendo has seen stock skyrocket by 89 per cent since the start of July. This despite not actually being involved in the development of Pokemon Go. Rather, the gaming goliath is a part owner of Niantic and also owns a third of the Pokemon Company, which in turn owns the Pokemon franchise.

As such, it is believed that Nintendo takes the smallest cut of any money made through the game. For every 100 units sold through app stores, Apple, Niantic and Pokemon take 30, leaving 10 for Nintendo, experts reckon.

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[Image credit: giphy.com]

The next three months

So what now for the game? The long-awaited Pokemon Go Plus watch has just been launched to a mixed reception and an Apple Watch app is expected before the end of 2016, so support will be ongoing for some time, you’d expect.

With the small exception of McDonald’s in Japan, we’ve yet to see sponsored locations really take-off, despite being much-touted in the game’s early days. So hopefully Niantic will open the door to more brands over the coming months.

Niantic may have moved at a snail’s pace to introduce more brands. Remember though, the Pokemon franchise has sustained interest for more than 20 years now so maybe Niantic feels confident that the franchise has enough sticking power to ensure any developments are done right and in good time.

In the meantime, marketers will have to continue purchasing lures to stir up business and continue to be creative with how they integrate the app into their marketing.

With a franchise as massive as Pokemon, the game is unlikely to fall off a cliff and until someone catches ‘em all, there will be a market for Pokemon Go.


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