For Fun

It’ll be little surprise to anyone who has been breathing in the past month that Pokémon Go is taking the mobile gaming world by storm. The fact is that few (or even none) games before this one has had the impact on the world that we have seen here. Like everything, there are those “for” and those “against”. I’m not adding much to either of those parties with this blog – but I do outline my experience as a “grown-up” playing Pokémon Go.

I’m just an innocent bystander.

To the surprise of everyone I know, I downloaded the Pokémon Go app and gave it a whirl on my iPhone 6. Now, a little context: I am not a gamer. The last time I played a video game, “first-person” gaming hadn’t been invented yet. Yup, I am that old. So to the disapproving looks of my wife, I started my journey to the dark side.

Setup of the game was entertaining. I got to choose my hair colour, eye colour, and outfit. I like my fashion, so the last part was particularly fun. Ok, so I now exist in the virtual world of Pokémon, what next? I must admit I got a little lost here; I didn’t know what to do next. Ten more seconds of this kind of confusion and my patience would have been exhausted – but a quick consult with a neighbour 14-year-old and whoosh…I had snagged my first Pokémon.

Feeling surprising elated I ventured out into the street looking for a second creature. Six minutes later I returned to my office with nothing more to show for it. “Well that was fun, I guess” I muttered to myself as I docked my phone and got ready to do some real work, never intending to play again.

A couple of hours later I needed what every guy needs at 10am. Coffee. A quick five-minute walk to the best espresso bar in the vicinity was required. I had made the journey many times before, but for some reason this time the walk in the beautiful winter sun was missing something. I couldn’t quite figure out what it was until I had espresso in hand and was walking back. Like a 14 year-old my hand instinctively reached for my back pocked and with one fell swoop I was back in Pokémon Go’s augmented reality hunting for those little creatures. “Yikes,” the thought ran through my mind “I am hooked? Is this what it feels like?”.

My heart was two-minded. On one hand, I was hiding my phone screen from anyone older than twenty in an effort to not get judged. Meanwhile, I constantly felt the need to see if there was a creature around the corner. I’ve never run into anyone or anything because I have been walking with my head in my phone, until that day. Coffee everywhere and ego shattered, I dropped by home for a quick change. I was certainly never doing that again!

But over the coming week I found myself jumping to Pokémon world every now and then. Less and less until I bag another creature, which renewed the instinct to go back. As I played through the game and saw comments about it in popular media and targeted sites, I realized that I enjoyed the experience of being part of something like this. While I doubt I’ll be pursing my creature-hunting ways, it was an interesting interlude into the mind of a millennial. The game has promoted some interesting behaviours, which you can read all about on the web, but for me the interest is the business impact. After all, I am just an innocent bystander.

My heart was two-minded.

The game is free to play. So leading revenue amounts to zero. However, my continual need to go back added to a far more interesting app metric: stickiness. The apps that get users come back multiple times a day (think: Facebook/Instagram) over a long term are going to be huge winners in the monetization world, even if they are free initially. The Pokémon makers have done a great job on stickiness, and I expect to see many more in-app purchases in the future to consolidate this metric to dollars.

So to all you guys out there that have a “great app idea”, let this be a lesson to you. Don’t build your app to make money, build it for purpose. If you nail the purpose part, you’ll never worry about money again.

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