What made Pokémon Go take off like no augmented reality application before? Using the Theory of Diffusion of Innovations we compare the concepts behind Pokémon Go to its prelude Ingress to capture the thoughts and ideas that will help us create the next AR killer app.

Pokémon Go is augmented reality?

Wait a minute, you haven’t realized that Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game? To be completely honest: Pokémon Go is a location-based game which makes use of augmented reality. AR is not the main game play, but the technology plays a crucial role in the acceptance of the idea that our real world is infested with digital creatures.
Every new player starts catching Pokémon in the AR view, i.e. with the live camera feed on the background of the Pokémon animation. This way the mental image of digital creatures that inhabite our world is strengthened until it is completely accepted. When a player is further advanced many of them turn off the AR view: it has served its purpose.

AR ready for early majority?

The prelude of Pokémon Go is the game Ingress, which also is location-based and makes use of augmented reality to persuade players to believe in an alternate reality. Ingress was created by the same makers as Pokémon Go, however Ingress never reached the numbers of players that Pokémon Go has.
Last year Ronald Azuma stated that one of the most important challenges in AR and MR storytelling would be motivating people to make the necessary effort to participate in location-based media (see Ch 11 of Fundamentals of Wearable computers and augmented reality). The success of Pokémon Go proves that at least the early majority is ready for location-based games using augmented reality. But what makes Pokémon Go such a success? Can we compare Ingress and Pokémon Go to find the success factors?

Comparing Ingress and Pokémon Go

IMG_5808The Theory of Diffusion of Innovations offers insight in the types of adopters of new ideas and technology and what it takes for an idea to spread: from innovators to early adopters to early majority, late majority and laggards. The innovators are the first to take up new ideas and technologies while the laggards only buy touch tone phones because rotary phones are not available any more (free after Simon Sinek in Ted Talk ). The theory also offers 6 critical success factors that need to be answered for a new adopter group to get engaged: relative advantage to the user, compatibility with daily life, ease of use, the possibility to try it out, the unexpected side effects and the positive affirmation by other people.

Relative Advantage
The first success factor is the relative advantage to the user. While Ingress was more suited to innovators, Pokémon is a better fit to reach a global audience of opinion leaders in gaming: the vloggers and other social media influencers. We see that for the innovators Ingress is a better fit than Pokémon with its SF-defend-the-world theme.
For the early majority of players, there is an advantage of inner confidence that is deduced from the ability to be able to playing this technically innovative game. It is about the ‘Oh, I can do this, find and catch magical monsters. Cool!’ Adding ‘collecting’ as initial game play instead of ‘fighting’ also adds a large target audience: women are more inclined to play non-violent games.

Compatibility
Using Pokémon as back story for the game has two advantages: it is well-known in the target audience 25-35 who all remember it fondly from the nineties. Plus the animation series are still running for younger kids. So there exists a very large user group that know the background story of the game and need no explanation to the game play.
Pokémon Go requires people to go outdoors and with its launch in the summer holiday season this has turned out an advantage instead of the challenge Azuma expected. Nowadays people are challenged through media to not sit still but to take up sports. Or at least walk 30 minutes a day. Pokémon hence is like the last push for them to come into action, with a double bonus: burning calories and catching Pokémon.
Going outdoors is something special for some players who have anxiety or are depressed. Yet the context of playing a fantasy game lowers the threshold of going out up to the point they actually go.

Pokémon as antidepressant

IMG_5663Simplicity
Pokémon is far less complex than Ingress to start playing. Within minutes after creating your account you have caught your first Pokémon. Niantic has managed to disguise this quick start guide as a special element in the game by making the first Pokémon you Starter Pokémon. Your first independent decision as player: which starter Pokémon do you choose?
The more complex game elements are introduced when a player is more advanced and hence more invested in the game. They will then be more eager to put in the effort to learn. And they have probably learned through vlogs, social media or real life contact about the overall goal of winning over gyms worldwide to their own team, which Pokémon are more rare than others, how to evolve Pokémon and which Pokémon to power up, how to optimize lucky eggs, which Pokémon to select as buddy etc etc.
Virtual teams of players who may never meet in real life form around Pokégyms: battling each day. “Ah, I see that DPhilippi is back and has trained our gym to level 10. There is a Pokémon of 2400+ CP on top. Let the Red’s try to beat that!”

Trialability
From initial communication Ingress claims you are needed to save the world. This is a message tailored for innovators, but the early majority will need to be won over in order to commit to this message and may never do so. With Pokémon you can try it if you like the game without committing to anything. You fumble around unnoticed until you are ready for more.

Pokémon holiday with teenagers

Reinvention
Paying users for Pokémon Go have dropped after the initial hit, but after 2 months sales is still trumping all other paid mobile games combined. Reinvention could be one of the reasons for the continuing success. Initially you play to collect Pokémon, later game play includes fighting for gyms. But Pokémon has a couple of unpredicted side effects as well. Who would have thought that people would go out on the streets and walk dozens of kilometers to breed eggs?
The summer of 2016 will forever be known as the Pokémon summer. Have you ever been on holiday with teenagers? Have you tried to interest them in sight seeing that mountain village or the medieval town? Did you get them off the couch to go cycling or canoeing without complaining? Did they walk 5km in the scorching heat for groceries? This year they do!
In the summer of 2016 a city trip was hunting the Pokémon in your ‘Nearby Sightings’ and discovering the Pokémon nests (places where good Pokémon spawn regularly). Walking through a mountain village was taking over the local Pokégyms. Canoeing or cycling was breeding your Pokémon eggs to obtain rare Pokémon. Not a disgruntled peep out of the teenagers all summer!

IMG_5730This reinventing of traditional summer activities for families is something that was lacking in Ingress and may be a major success factor for Pokémon.

Meeting new people through Pokémon Go

Observability
The early adopter group for Pokémon Go were the vloggers. Pokémon offered them a great source for new and entertaining vlogs, explaining the ins and outs of the game, sharing tips, and filming adventures to capture rare Pokémon. They shared thousands of hours of Pokémon with their audiences.
The huge success of Pokémon Go has even led to people meeting new people: players that meet while hunting for a rare Pokémon share information. Typical conversations are: “Have you found the Dratini from the sightings yet?” “No, it’s not to the right, so it must be over there.” “OK, let’s go catch it.” People join efforts together, although you might sometimes find players from one Pokémon team that send players from opposing teams the wrong way 😉

Pokémon success factors in short

The game is interesting for starting players and stays so by introducing more complex concepts along the way. You cannot fail in the game or loose. Capturing the best Pokémon is simply perseverance. The experience of playing is highly shareable providing endless stories for vlogs, social media or regular talk. Playing Pokémon Go is socially rewarding in many ways, appealing to families as well as peer groups.
Copy these factors in your concept and you just might be on to the next Augmented Reality killer app!What made Pokémon Go take off like no augmented reality application before? Using the Theory of Diffusion of Innovations we compare the concepts behind Pokémon Go to its prelude Ingress to capture the thoughts and ideas that will help us create the next AR killer app.

Pokémon Go is augmented reality?

Wait a minute, you haven’t realized that Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game? To be completely honest: Pokémon Go is a location-based game which makes use of augmented reality. AR is not the main game play, but the technology plays a crucial role in the acceptance of the idea that our real world is infested with digital creatures.
Every new player starts catching Pokémon in the AR view, i.e. with the live camera feed on the background of the Pokémon animation. This way the mental image of digital creatures that inhabite our world is strengthened until it is completely accepted. When a player is further advanced many of them turn off the AR view: it has served its purpose.

AR ready for early majority?

The prelude of Pokémon Go is the game Ingress, which also is location-based and makes use of augmented reality to persuade players to believe in an alternate reality. Ingress was created by the same makers as Pokémon Go, however Ingress never reached the numbers of players that Pokémon Go has.
Last year Ronald Azuma stated that one of the most important challenges in AR and MR storytelling would be motivating people to make the necessary effort to participate in location-based media (see Ch 11 of Fundamentals of Wearable computers and augmented reality). The success of Pokémon Go proves that at least the early majority is ready for location-based games using augmented reality. But what makes Pokémon Go such a success? Can we compare Ingress and Pokémon Go to find the success factors?

Comparing Ingress and Pokémon Go

IMG_5808The Theory of Diffusion of Innovations offers insight in the types of adopters of new ideas and technology and what it takes for an idea to spread: from innovators to early adopters to early majority, late majority and laggards. The innovators are the first to take up new ideas and technologies while the laggards only buy touch tone phones because rotary phones are not available any more (free after Simon Sinek in Ted Talk ). The theory also offers 6 critical success factors that need to be answered for a new adopter group to get engaged: relative advantage to the user, compatibility with daily life, ease of use, the possibility to try it out, the unexpected side effects and the positive affirmation by other people.

Relative Advantage
The first success factor is the relative advantage to the user. While Ingress was more suited to innovators, Pokémon is a better fit to reach a global audience of opinion leaders in gaming: the vloggers and other social media influencers. We see that for the innovators Ingress is a better fit than Pokémon with its SF-defend-the-world theme.
For the early majority of players, there is an advantage of inner confidence that is deduced from the ability to be able to playing this technically innovative game. It is about the ‘Oh, I can do this, find and catch magical monsters. Cool!’ Adding ‘collecting’ as initial game play instead of ‘fighting’ also adds a large target audience: women are more inclined to play non-violent games.

Compatibility
Using Pokémon as back story for the game has two advantages: it is well-known in the target audience 25-35 who all remember it fondly from the nineties. Plus the animation series are still running for younger kids. So there exists a very large user group that know the background story of the game and need no explanation to the game play.
Pokémon Go requires people to go outdoors and with its launch in the summer holiday season this has turned out an advantage instead of the challenge Azuma expected. Nowadays people are challenged through media to not sit still but to take up sports. Or at least walk 30 minutes a day. Pokémon hence is like the last push for them to come into action, with a double bonus: burning calories and catching Pokémon.
Going outdoors is something special for some players who have anxiety or are depressed. Yet the context of playing a fantasy game lowers the threshold of going out up to the point they actually go.

Pokémon as antidepressant

IMG_5663Simplicity
Pokémon is far less complex than Ingress to start playing. Within minutes after creating your account you have caught your first Pokémon. Niantic has managed to disguise this quick start guide as a special element in the game by making the first Pokémon you Starter Pokémon. Your first independent decision as player: which starter Pokémon do you choose?
The more complex game elements are introduced when a player is more advanced and hence more invested in the game. They will then be more eager to put in the effort to learn. And they have probably learned through vlogs, social media or real life contact about the overall goal of winning over gyms worldwide to their own team, which Pokémon are more rare than others, how to evolve Pokémon and which Pokémon to power up, how to optimize lucky eggs, which Pokémon to select as buddy etc etc.
Virtual teams of players who may never meet in real life form around Pokégyms: battling each day. “Ah, I see that DPhilippi is back and has trained our gym to level 10. There is a Pokémon of 2400+ CP on top. Let the Red’s try to beat that!”

Trialability
From initial communication Ingress claims you are needed to save the world. This is a message tailored for innovators, but the early majority will need to be won over in order to commit to this message and may never do so. With Pokémon you can try it if you like the game without committing to anything. You fumble around unnoticed until you are ready for more.

Pokémon holiday with teenagers

Reinvention
Paying users for Pokémon Go have dropped after the initial hit, but after 2 months sales is still trumping all other paid mobile games combined. Reinvention could be one of the reasons for the continuing success. Initially you play to collect Pokémon, later game play includes fighting for gyms. But Pokémon has a couple of unpredicted side effects as well. Who would have thought that people would go out on the streets and walk dozens of kilometers to breed eggs?
The summer of 2016 will forever be known as the Pokémon summer. Have you ever been on holiday with teenagers? Have you tried to interest them in sight seeing that mountain village or the medieval town? Did you get them off the couch to go cycling or canoeing without complaining? Did they walk 5km in the scorching heat for groceries? This year they do!
In the summer of 2016 a city trip was hunting the Pokémon in your ‘Nearby Sightings’ and discovering the Pokémon nests (places where good Pokémon spawn regularly). Walking through a mountain village was taking over the local Pokégyms. Canoeing or cycling was breeding your Pokémon eggs to obtain rare Pokémon. Not a disgruntled peep out of the teenagers all summer!
This reinventing of traditional summer activities for families is something that was lacking in Ingress and may be a major success factor for Pokémon.

IMG_5730

Meeting new people through Pokémon Go

Observability
The early adopter group for Pokémon Go were the vloggers. Pokémon offered them a great source for new and entertaining vlogs, explaining the ins and outs of the game, sharing tips, and filming adventures to capture rare Pokémon. They shared thousands of hours of Pokémon with their audiences.
The huge success of Pokémon Go has even led to people meeting new people: players that meet while hunting for a rare Pokémon share information. Typical conversations are: “Have you found the Dratini from the sightings yet?” “No, it’s not to the right, so it must be over there.” “OK, let’s go catch it.” People join efforts together, although you might sometimes find players from one Pokémon team that send players from opposing teams the wrong way 😉

Pokémon success factors in short

The game is interesting for starting players and stays so by introducing more complex concepts along the way. You cannot fail in the game or loose. Capturing the best Pokémon is simply perseverance. The experience of playing is highly shareable providing endless stories for vlogs, social media or regular talk. Playing Pokémon Go is socially rewarding in many ways, appealing to families as well as peer groups.
Copy these factors in your concept and you just might be on to the next Augmented Reality killer app!