You might have noticed people standing in parks, on corners, or walking down streets glued to their phones and pointing them around, looking a little confused. Perhaps you were feeling nice and asked if they were lost and needed help navigating. Then, they looked at you like you had four heads, laughed, and shook their heads. Don’t worry – it’s not you. They’re just in the throes of the newest craze to sweep the globe: Pokémon Go. And yes, it is the year 2016.
So what in the world is Pokémon Go?
The newest Pokémon game is an augmented reality game on Android and iOS devices. While the game is different from previous Pokémon games on handheld Nintendo consoles, the ultimate goal is the same: catch ‘em all. In the game, users catch the critters via the phone’s GPS and camera, which incorporates the real world into the virtual Pokemon world. The app was released just last week and it’s taken off more than anyone could’ve expected.
It’s huge. It’s surpassed all mobile games and is even taking over the big social networking apps. Pokémon Go boasts more active users than Twitter, Snapchat, and even Facebook. On Monday, the average daily use was 33 minutes, compared to Facebook’s 22 minutes and Snapchat’s 18 minutes.
And the advertising world is taking notice. The Wall Street Journal noted that ad agencies are scurrying to figure out strategies for augmented reality and how clients might capitalize on the Pokémon Go craze. According to Pokémon Go creator, Niantic, sponsored locations would be coming soon to the game. Companies will be able to sponsor locations in the Pokémon world in order to drive real, cash-bearing foot traffic.
But, hold up.
Let’s take a step away from this augmented reality business and back to a simpler time: the ‘90s. Back when the internet was barely a thing, smartphones didn’t exist, and the coolest technology was a Nintendo Game Boy.
In 1998, Nintendo released Pokémon Red and Blue in the US, video games on Nintendo’s handheld Game Boy console. The game soared in popularity. Soon after the video game, the Pokémon Trading Card Game and a TV show was released. And just like that, kids all over the world became wholly immersed in the virtual world of Pokémon, catching critters on their Game Boys, in trading cards, and then coming home to watch it on TV.
Part of the appeal of the Pokémon video game was the ability to play with (and against) your friends, thanks to Nintendo’s Game Link – a top-of-the-line cable that connected two Game Boys for multiplayer gaming. Back in those days, few things beat playing video games with your best friends.