Nikki-Bush-Pokemon logo There’s a Pokemon in my house. And there’s one hiding outside the townhouse complex across the road. And there’s one at the swimming school two blocks up (the app thinks its a gym!). And one hiding under the seat in my local McDonald’s and what’s that queue outside that museum that no-one ever goes to? And we could get in our car or go for an actual walk and chase them down. Or we could burn the incense that we have won and that would attract the Pokemon to us. Pokemon Go is here.

Hide & Seek and Catchers just got a whole new lease on life with Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go was launched on 15 July 2016 and within a week, before even being officially available in most countries around the world it was the most downloaded app ever – over 40 million downloads, surpassing the previous record held by Candy Crush Saga.Pokémon Go is a free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game developed by Niantic for iOS and Android devices. It overlays digital on top of reality. Players chase and collect virtual pocket monsters over real terrain.

Where does Pokemon come from?

Pokemon was a very popular video game back in the 90s that kids played on their Gameboys. There were also Pokemon cartoons, movies and playing cards. Pokemon refers to tiny pocket monsters (they are Japanese) and the Pokemon craze never totally died. In fact, the last two Nintendo 3DS video games sold 25 million copies combined.
Niantic has now brought this nostalgic brand together with augmented reality. This is a concept I discussed at Toy Talk 2014 when the very smart Sphero Ball was launched enabling players to play Sharky the Beaver and The Rolling Dead on their iPads – the Sphero Ball that was on the floor would show up on the screen and you would manoevre it around the house or your outdoor environment to catch/kill creatures that were hiding in whatever terrain you were playing in. It also required physical movement – getting off the couch. Pokemon Go has taken this idea to a whole new level.

According to Wikipedia, Pokémon Go makes use of GPS and the camera of compatible devices, the game allows players to capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, who appear on device screens as though in the real world. The game is free-to-play, although it supports in-app purchases of additional gameplay items. An optional companion Bluetooth wearable device, the Pokémon Go Plus, is planned for future release and will alert users when Pokémon are nearby.

Making augmented reality mainstream

Being a free game, this is the first time augmented reality has gone mainstream, giving people a taste of what’s to come. The game has been credited with popularising location-based gaming and augmented reality, and has received praise for getting people up off the couch, outdoors and interacting with the world. It has also attracted some controversy due to reports of causing accidents and being a public nuisance at some locations.

South African teachers and school psychologists are complaining because learners are asking to charge their phones during class all the time. The fact is that Pokemon Go uses your phone’s GPS, camera and graphics processor all at the same time – it is one of the most draining things you can do to a phone battery. My son tells me it’s about a percent a minute on his phone. Real Pokemon Go fanatics go nowhere without an external battery pack.

If you want an easy to read Q & A, I found this CNet entry which is very informative and low tech. It explains everything from Pokemon Go characters, Poke Balls, candy, eggs, incense, incubators, battles, PokeStops, multiplayer gaming, collecting characters, levels of the game and more.

If you are interested in detail, read the Wikipedia entry about Pokemon Go here.

Why the craze will go big

Pokemon Go is not just a kids craze. Big kids who were the Pokemon generation as youngsters are taking it so seriously that some are even quitting their jobs and taking six month sabbaticals/holidays to chase Pokemon around the world, seeing it as the ultimate online/offline adventure. This is the power of augmented reality combined with a nostalgic brand. In addition, virtual reality games to date have largely been played alone, but Pokemon Go is very social which means more people will either be sharing the experience together or sharing proof of their exploits with others via social media.

Add to this two more things and this free gaming app will be making its developers and absolute fortune:

  • the marketing potential of the game in that companies such as McDonalds, for example, will be happy to pay to be Pokemon stops to lure people instore
  • the in-app purchases players can make to help them to progress through the game quicker, earning more rewards as they go


Parenting advice

  • Understand that this game is driven by collectibles and rewards – two ingredients that kids just love.
  • The game keeps changing so players will keep coming back for more.
  • Some kids have more addictive personalities than others so the attraction will be greater for some than others.
  • Play the game with your kids so that you understand what it’s all about.
  • If you were the Pokemon generation, you can use this game to build a bridge between you and your tech-savvy child
  • Use the game to help your family understand the difference between real and augmented reality – that you are actually chasing something virtual in the real world. Digital is being overlaid over reality and there will be a lot more of this in the future.
  • Pokemon Go uses data so keep an eye on it.
  • One of the reasons your child has a mobile phone is for safety and security – they must always have enough battery charge to be able to contact you and vice versa. They need to be hyper aware of this because Pokemon Go is a total drain on their battery. If they abuse the game, they choose for it to be removed from their device.
  • Disable the in-app purchasing feature on their devices – this is where parental control software is really useful.
  • Let them have a good fling with the game one weekend and then have a family pow wow to discuss what you observed and how they felt. On this basis, develop some rules of engagement so that they don’t become obsessed or put themselves in physical danger. Chasing a Pokemon may require crossing a busy road or going into a place of interest or a shop. They may need to pay an entry fee into a museum, for example, and the rules of the road still apply.
  • When playing Pokemon Go, they must be aware of looking up when they are moving to ensure they don’t walk into people or physically injure themselves.
  • And for youngsters and adults who are driving, don’t play Pokemon Go when you are behind the wheel.
  • Oh, one last thing – preferably download the genuine app from the official app stores to avoid malware

As with all things tech, Pokemon Go will continue to evolve daily as the developers and players come to grips with the power of location based gaming and augmented reality, fixing and improving the app as it evolves. Pikachu (the electric rat that has been the face of Pokemon for 20 years) and friends can now be found on a smart device and hiding close to you, wherever you may be. Some people are chanting Go, Pokemon, Go! while others are already saying Pokemon Stop! Let’s see where this goes…..

For more information on my parent talk, Tech-Savvy Parenting, click here. For information about my digital safety workshop for learners from grade five to teens, The One Thing You Need to Remember, click here.