Unless you’ve been hiding in tall grass, you’ve probably heard about a little phenomenon called Pokémon Go. In just a few short weeks, Nintendo’s augmented reality game has taken the internet by storm. How big is this nostalgia wave? With an estimated 7.5 million app downloads in the U.S. alone, Pokémon Go has already surpassed Tinder in popularity and is eclipsing other digital staples like Instagram and Snapchat in daily usage time. Oh, and Nintendo’s stock has surged by more than 25 percent, adding $9 billion in market value since its debut.
The technology is here
Most people think that augmented reality requires expensive equipment or fancy headsets. In reality, the most powerful AR tech is often found in your pocket—your smartphone. Pokémon Go’s success is also a huge win for the AR concept because millions of people are now being exposed to the advances in technology. Between Snapchat and Pokémon Go, augmented reality is quickly and quietly becoming a staple in our lives.
So is the market
The U.S. augmented reality business is projected to be worth $120 billion by 2020. It’s not hype. AR is scalable, and can become integral to mobile in the same way that mobile has become integral to digital. Prominent investors, including Qualcomm and Y Combinator, are betting on this, backing a promising group of AR start-ups. And already, there are augmented reality platform companies, product and game companies, and custom app builders, as well as enterprise and self-service tools.
It’s not confined to your living room
Pokémon Go has shown that augmented reality games are able to get people moving and interacting in real life, as opposed to camping out at home. The game requires users to explore their area in order to earn new experience, gain items, and of course – catch ‘em all. When you’re heading to the office or out to lunch, be sure to look out for people awkwardly holding their phones, most likely trying to catch a Zubat.
As more augmented reality games hit the market, there is an opportunity to take advantage of players leaving their homes to play the game. This is one of the main differences between augmented reality and virtual reality – which requires users to cover their eyes with goggles, restricting them to the confines of the room they’re playing in.
Opportunities for big brands and local business
While Nintendo and Google have made quite the fortune off Pokémon Go, the app has also proved – dare we say it – “super effective” for small businesses. One of the apps features highlights different landmarks around your town or city, dubbed “Pokéstops,” which provide players with several items if you visit the location. For businesses listed as a Pokéstops, there has been an uptick in foot traffic and customer count. Small businesses are also able to increase the number people coming to their Pokéstop by purchasing a “Lure,” which attracts more “wild Pokémon” to appear at the location. More Pokémon, more people, more money.
Businesses have also taken advantage of the app through marketing around the game. Through witty, relevant signs, to sharing some of the high level Pokémon captured at the location, businesses, have been able to capture more customers (not in a little ball, though). Some are also offering discounts to members of one of the games three teams, request players make a purchase before catching Pokémon, or other little gimmicks to increase sales. Pokémon Go’s benefits for small business has proven that augmented reality has the potential to break the “Fourth Wall” of digital, blurring the lines between what is online and what is real.
There will be challenges
Pokémon Go opens with a warning for players to “watch their step,” but safety concerns surrounding augmented reality extend to the digital world, as well. Data privacy became an anxiety for Pokémon Go players after news broke that the game’s iOS version gave Niantic – the game’s developer – “full access” to their Google accounts. Niantic’s team took quick steps to address the issue and clarify their position, but still dealt with national media coverage and an open letter from U.S. Senator Al Franken. Augmented reality continues to integrate with technologies, platforms, and apps we use every day, developers will have to consider how they can protect users online and off.
Kevin Coroneos is a Pokémon Trainer on Team Instinct and an assistant account executive with Digital in Washington, D.C.
Alex Buffer is a Pokémon Trainer on Team Mystic and an account executive with Digital in Washington, D.C.
Joe Scannell is a Pokémon Trainer on Team Valor and a senior account executive with Digital in Washington, D.C.