Pokémon Go has been released in the UK this week, taking the gaming world by storm. The mobile application was already available in the US, Australia and Germany. The app allows users to use the camera function in their smartphone to roam a map using GPS location data and catch Pokémon in various locations around the globe.

Pokémon is a Japanese media franchise owned by The Pokémon Company, a consortium of Nintendo, Game Freak and Creatures. The franchise was created by Satoshi Taijiri in 1995 and is centered on fictional Pokémon creatures, which humans known as “Pokémon Trainers” catch and train for battle.

Demand for the app is so high that the site has had to periodically open new account registrations to avoid crashing. The game has added millions to the value of Nintendo (owners of Pokémon brand). At the time of writing the Nintendo shares had risen by 70% to £19.6bn since the game’s release – their highest since 1983. The app has been downloaded on more smartphones than Tinder, and currently has as many active users as Twitter.

The game uses GPS location data which means that players can incorporate the game into their everyday lives as they travel around. Players can visit Pokéstops, which are typically landmarks or special buildings, to collect free items to use in the game. The main aim of the game is to catch Pokémon, which can pop up around the players area. The game blurs the line between reality and the virtual world. Using the back end camera on smartphones, players view the real-life view of the world with Pokémon characters superimposed. Players who have caught Pokémon can meet up at Pokémon “gyms” to battle other players in the game. These gyms are also located throughout the map, usually incorporating famous landmarks or areas of interest.

The game is definitely not just for kids. Many older players are downloading and playing the game,  as it allows them to revert back to their childhood, especially for those who grew up watching the tv show and playing the original games. 

Reaction

pokemon go walk sydneyThe success of Pokémon Go has demonstrated the virality of augmented reality games if developed in the correct way. The millions of players become walking advertisements as they wander through busy streets searching for Pokémon. Players have also taken to social media to share photos of Pokémon showing up in strange locations, like when they are being pulled over by the police or during labour.  The hashtag #PokémonGo has taken over Twitter with over 6.6 million mentions in the first week of release alone. The game also has a great social element bringing together players for meet ups such as the PokémonGo Walk in Sydney that saw over 2000 people gather to go for a walk and play the game.

The app is currently free to download – the developer makes money via the optional “power ups” and virtual items that can be purchased within the app. However, the creators are rumoured to be in talks with various companies who want to purchase sponsored locations within the game.

The hashtag #PokémonGo received an Adorescore of 42 with the main activation emotions being ecstasy, admiration and loathing. The hype and nostalgia the game brings explains the positive reaction but what explains the loathing?

This could be due to the amount of people expressing concern about the safety of the app. The Chief Executive of the NSPCC has urged the game-makers to adapt the game to prevent the risk of adults preying on children using the game. Niantic and the Pokémon Company the game makers stated “We take player safety seriously and want everybody to have a fantastic time exploring while safely playing Pokémon Go. We encourage all people to be aware of their surroundings and to play with friends or family, especially when you’re exploring unfamiliar places. Please remember to be safe and alert at all times, don’t drive and play, abide by local laws, and respect the locations you visit and the people you meet during your exploration”.

Worldwide issues

  • In the US, a woman found a dead body while she was looking for a Pokémon in a river near her home. However, Police said no foul play had been suspected.
  • Four people were arrested in Missouri after using the game to lure people into a trap and rob them at gunpoint.
  • The Westboro Baptist Church, home of ‘The Most Hated Family In America’, is a “Pokémon Gym” location and players planted a pink “Clefairy” Pokémon called LOVEISLOVE to guard and defend this gym. The church, which is known for their homophobic beliefs, has responded with angry social media posts, using Pokémon to convey their messages..
  • There are numerous reports of people injuring themselves by not paying attention of where they are walking, including the report of two men who fell off an oceanside cliff in California, sustaining “moderate injuries” as they hunted for Pokémon.

Some of the Adoreboard team took a stroll around Queen’s University Belfast to try the game out for ourselves. The game is highly addictive and definitely promotes getting out of the house (or office!) and getting a bit of exercise.

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Whether the public reaction is positive or negative, there is no denying the success of the game. Pokémon Go has opened up the the idea that the great outdoors is now an interactive playground for people get out and explore.
So now you just “Gotta Catch’em All!”