Pokémon Go is the hottest app in the world right now. It broke records for most downloads, set new ones, and continues to garner more attention than any other app on any phone, ever.
But why did Pokémon Go take over? Why is it so popular? And, is it here to stay?
It's my turn to weigh in, and I think you might be surprised by what I have to share.
Want to listen? There's an audio version below
I didn't grow up watching Pokémon. The target demographic was about eight to ten years younger than me whenever it first came on TV in 1997, but it's popularity definitely put the show on my radar.
For the next (almost) 20 years, Pokémon fans watched the TV shows and movies, and they played the card and video games. They enjoyed the fictional world in which you captured wild creatures and did battle with other magical creatures.
NOTE: You might want to listen to this if you're curious about how to use Pokémon Go as a marketing tool.
And over those 20 years, fans of the original Pokémon, grew up, graduated from high school and college, started jobs, bought houses, started having kids and became “millennials.” As with many of the pop-culture staples of the 1990s that have seen a resurgence, Pokémon was primed for a comeback.
But, Pokémon Go is something different. It's something special. And, as I hope you'll see, it is no accident that Pokémon Go has become the most popular app in the world.
8 Reasons Pokémon Go Has Taken Over the World
1: It's Fun
First, Pokémon Go is fun. I downloaded the app last week, and it was immediately fun. The bright colors made the game easy to get into, navigate, understand and control. While there is a short learning curve, it didn't get in the way of having a good time almost immediately.
2: Easy to Play
Pokémon Go is easy to play. If you've ever played a bowling game on your mobile device, you'll be a pro at Pokémon Go.
Plus, you don't have to be a young person to learn how to toss your Poké Ball and catch Bulbasaurs, Eevees, or the Pidgeys and Rattatas that seem to surround my house.
3: There's Plenty of Competition
Everyone loves competition, and Pokémon Go is full of it. PokéStops, real world locations that people have visited or “checked in” at over the past few years, can be captured and battled over. Popular PokéStops called “Gyms” attract other players and encourage you to virtually battle one another for supremacy.
In addition to capturing and holding PokéStops, the Pokémon themselves become harder and harder to catch. Capturing my first Pidgeot took several tries, and I almost cut my losses and gave up.
4: It's Made for Mobile
Pokémon Go was made for the one device we have with us all day every day. The game is available on every platform, on every mobile OS, and can be installed by anyone.
Though Pokémon Go will drain your battery like water through a sieve (it keeps the screen on, plays audio, requires a constant data connection, and access to GPS satellites), it is a great mobile game.
5: It Plays on Nostalgia
One of the key components to Pokémon Go's success is that it plays on nostalgia. There have been over 650 episodes (in English alone) of Pokémon TV shows, 19 or more Pokémon movies, and more than ten Pokémon video games on four different systems. And, the list goes on.
As of May 2016, the Pokémon media franchise has grossed revenues of over $46 billion (Source). To say that Pokémon was popular would be an understatement.
Now, all of those kids from the 80s and 90s who grew up on the cartoon are the ones making purchasing decisions and are in prime positions to buy based on their childhood memories.
6: Scarcity: “Gotta Catch ‘Em All.”
Scarcity is a tactic marketers have used forever. “Limited seating available,” and “Early Bird Pricing,” and expiring offers are prime examples.
I found myself walking around the square in Georgetown, Texas on a Saturday night because I didn't want to miss out on catching a Pokémon I'd never seen or caught before. Each Pokémon is available for a limited amount of time before they run off, and not everyone will be able to catch them.
7: The Social Aspect
At every PokéStop you'll find other Pokémon Go players. People of all ages can be seen hunched over their phones, flicking Poké Balls at wild Pokémon.
In front of a coffee shop, I saw a kid about 12 and a man about 45 playing. When I walked around the courthouse, I talked to a girl who'd graduated college, and another group of people who's ages ranged from the late teens to early 30s. People playing Pokémon Go can't be pigeon-holed (or should I say “Pidgey” holed) into a single category, age, gender, or nationality.
Pokémon Go has made walking and visiting historical sites cool again. Even somber sites like the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Arlington National Cemetery have become popular places to catch Pokémon. (Please don't do that)
By walking to popular locations (yes, you actually have to be there), you can get different types of Pokémon, get new Poké Balls to replenish your supply, and grab other rewards to help you in the game.
Other tactics inside the Pokémon Go app, like using an Egg Incubator to hatch your eggs, requires walking to power them. Sure, you could fool the game by riding your bike or driving in your car, but even hatching the eggs you pick up has been turned into a game.
Will Pokémon Go Be Around in 5 Years?
My first thought in response to this question is, “Who cares?” My second thought is yes, I do think Pokémon Go will be around in 5 years.
Will Pokémon Go be around in 10 or 20 years?
While I think the popular app WILL be around in 2026, I don't know what form it will take. Apps like Pokémon Go that so thoroughly capture the cultural zeitgeist of its day rarely fade into the background completely.
As mobile technology continues to improve, geo-location apps will get better. Combine geo-location with virtual reality, social media, competition and gaming like Pokémon Go has, and you have a winning mix.
Though I'm not a HUGE fan of mobile gaming (I much prefer my PlayStation and Xbox), I predict that Pokémon Go will be around for a long, long time.
Have you played Pokémon Go?