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Pokémon GO – Is this a revival of Augmented Reality?
Jul 24, 2016 5:21:00 PM
A bunch of grown-ups with backpacks in the middle of an urban setting, all hunched over something invisible with their smartphones pulled out. Seemingly exhausted but still very excited over something that pretty much no one else can see or explain. Nothing to be alarmed about. Such scenes are increasingly becoming commonplace with the new fad of “Pokémon hunting”.
The Pokémon GO app has taken the world over by storm, with practically every social media channel talking about a Pokémon-related story or news. Personally, I like the concept and the idea that the game prompts people to get out and be active while doing something fun. However, what is likely to have remained unnoticed is the role of Augmented Reality (AR) in all of this. I mean, is it really making a comeback? Will this app give AR a much needed exposure and get people interested in it? Here’s Kavit Majithia’s two cents on this.
At the time of writing, I have caught 137 (28 different types), I am well on my way towards Level 9 and I have 9 eggs that need incubating. What am I talking about? Pokémon Go, of course. And as I engage with it more and more, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to categorize this as just another game.
Not only has this app given nineties kids the chance to get all nostalgic about their childhoods (the last time they embarked on a quest to find these fictional creatures was on the Nintendo Gameboy), but it’s also getting people out of the house to walk and engage with other people trying to “catch them all” (providing real-life social networking).
It’s also probably the first Augmented Reality (AR) use case that is really being embraced by the masses and more than anything, it is yet another example of what technology can do. Its impact, arguably, could end up being as big as that of the iPhone on smartphones, or what Facebook did for social media.
Japan’s Nintendo, meanwhile, famous for Super Mario, Zelda, Pokémon of course, and some of the best gaming platforms ever created before the launch of the internet generation of console, is laughing. While criticized for standing still during the smartphone gaming era, it has, along with Google spin-off Niantic and the Pokémon company, been working to change the game altogether.
This is reflected by its share price, which has rocketed by as much as 50 per cent since the game’s launch, even surpassing home rival Sony in terms of market value this week, the company that once muscled in on its dominant position in the gaming sector. Take that!
For our industry, this game has even allowed mobile operators the chance to jump on the bandwagon. Often criticized for being completely out of touch with their users, and generally out of the loop when it comes to new technology trends, operators are using Pokémon Go to upsell data plans, and they’re trying to do it in a humorous way. You can’t walk down a high street in the UK without seeing a billboard outside a 3 or EE store that tells you to “play Pokémon Go to your heart’s content with our amazing data package”.
And it’s no surprise. Just a day after its launch last week, EE said more than half a million new players joined Pokémon Go, with six new “Pokémon trainers” created every second. The operator is now even offering a half price deal on its battery packs to “keep Pokémon hunters on the go”. Meanwhile, in the US, T-Mobile US extended its rewards program to offer free, unlimited data for Pokémon Go for a full year, while Sprint is tempting people to its stores by enabling “lures to attract monsters that players can capture”.
But, everything comes at a price. Not only is this game incredibly draining on your smartphone battery (as EE recognizes), it also really only works through the use of mobile data because it is location based, meaning users have to be on their toes all the time to build up their score, as well as hunting down the rarest of Pokémon. (Sitting at your desk or at home on Wi-Fi can find you the odd Pidgey, but you won’t get very far).
In fact, pretty much every aspect of the game requires its players to interact with the digital world in some way, whether it is “battling” other trainers in a gym, or picking up goodies such as Pokéballs in certain locations, such as churches, monuments or train stations. The good thing is, according to early research by networking company Procera Networks and analytics firm P9, the game doesn’t actually drain as much data as you might think.
It only takes a small amount of bandwidth compared to apps like Facebook and Spotify, and even less than what it would take to stream a video. This, however, is likely to change once Pokémon Go fully monetizes the platform with things like advertising and sponsorships, meaning third parties interact with the game, and increase the load on servers, warned Procera.
For now, this latest technology trend has thrown up a few quirky stories that won’t be forgotten in a hurry, and data allowances seem to be at the back of users’ minds. From the man in New Zealand that has quit his job to go on a 2-month tour to find these virtual creatures, to players in Bosnia being warned against straying into minefields to search for Pokémon, the revolution is real.
Spare a thought for those in Japan, however; Nintendo’s home market. Notoriously gaming mad, Pokémon Go’s launch has been reportedly delayed due to concerns that the hype generated would overload the game’s servers.
You couldn’t make this up.