If you’ve seen what appears to be random twentysomethings wandering aimlessly through your neighborhood, eyes glued to their phones, you’re witnessing a cultural high watermark. No, they’re not all locked into a rapid-fire text conversation, nor are they all watching a show before Facebook inevitably spoils it.
They’re hunting Pokemon. That’s right. It’s 2016, and (nearly) everyone you know is meandering through the streets to collect imaginary, videogame monsters. What a time to be alive.
Unless you’re locked in a doomsday bunker (as of late, I wouldn’t blame you) you’ve heard about Pokemon GO, and seen the throngs of people walking around and seeking them out. Pokemon GO was released last Friday, the newest incarnation of Nintendo’s generation-defining game from the 90’s. The massive initial response has proven that when you mix childhood nostalgia with smartphones you can make billions—and get people to inadvertently exercise!
Since its release, Pokemon GO has added more than $7 billion to Nintendo’s value, and some reports show the videogame already having more users than the dating app Tinder, and with those users spending more time playing daily than using WhatsApp, Snapchat and Instagram. Talk about an immediate impact.
Being a GPS-based game that requires players to physically “hunt” Pokemon outside, many businesses are seeing a secondary boost as a result of the increased foot traffic. Certain spots or waypoints are marked as “Pokestops” where players can acquire a variety of in-game items, and some forward-thinking restaurants and cafes have begun promoting their proximity to these stops—and reaping the rewards of players flocking to their businesses.
There have been strange stories, too, such as the girl on the hunt who instead discovered a dead body, or the four teenagers that spent time by a Pokestop for the purposes of an armed robbery. It underscores that if you decide to go Poke hunting, you must remain aware of your surroundings at all times!
The biggest challenge for Pokemon GO will be to overcome the fad threshold. Many smartphone-based apps and games have become instant megahits, just to see daily users drop off over time. Nintendo needs to harness this enthusiasm and continue to update and add to the game to keep users engaged with new content to keep this upward trend going. But enough about the future—for now you should download it, get outside, keep aware of what’s around you, and happy hunting.