I have been connected to gaming since the mid 80’s. In a time where only geeks were into games, where the average Joe was into booze and ‘pretending’ to have sex, games were not on his (or her) mind. The population would not see a surge into gaming until the PlayStation came and even then it was a slow boat to wherever. It took until the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 for things to change. I reckon the Gameboy also made a dent in that world, but the move to the masses did not truly start until 2005. It has now been 11 years and what was an ignored industry is now a 200 billion dollar market and everyone wants a slice. With mobiles evolving the way they have in the last 2 years, that device is now also more and more the gaming solution for those on the move, which has added a new dimension.
Here I missed one sign that I did not see coming. I saw how the predicted success Minecraft even outdid my expectations, I have seen games come, I have successfully predicted winners and especially losers and average wastes of time, yet last Friday I witnessed something I did not expect, in the same way I did not expect Skylanders to be the success it became.
There is a game called Pokémon GO, which was released this month and the amount of people I have almost literally tripped over since Friday is beyond normal. I have been a Pokémon friend since Sapphire and Ruby were released on the Gameboy Advance, yet what is shown all over Sydney now I did not see that coming. It is almost everywhere. On trains, in busses, sitting in the park, walking on the street and in the office, people are trying to catch them all. It is a little overwhelming to see this big a leap in interest, yet this is what happens. Even as we now know that No Man’s Sky went gold last Friday, which means that production of the shippable discs will be a reality soon, the fact that this game came from almost nowhere towards an IOS and Android release is more than just great. You see, it is not just that this game is a hype (for now), the fact that an established game can be vamped into a new mobile dimension is absolutely fantastic. It means that leagues of games could find their own evolution into the mobile industry and into the gaming minds for those holding onto their mobiles.
Another side has been illuminated by Forbes. Their quote “The best approach you can take is to make that impact positive by embracing the game and making the Pokémon GO experience a memorable one for both you and your potential customers” gives a first nod towards the use of “Pokémon GO has a purchasable in-game item called a “Lure Module” which attracts Pokémon to a particular PokeStop for 30 minutes. Those Pokémon it attracts? They’re visible to and attainable by everyone in the nearby vicinity. Use it during a typically slow period of your day to get more foot traffic, and then use your creativity to turn them into a paying customer“, which now gives retail another option besides ‘free Wi-Fi’. We will soon see methods of using gamers to lure groups of people towards any location, especially if this is a route towards legendary Pokémon’s from either a hatched or an unhatched egg.
There is one other side to all this. The fact that this game relies on movement (GPS linked) and being out and about is a first step to get some gamers from Couch Potato mode into the Go-Getter stream of an active population. I reckon that deserves a lot more merit than most people are giving this game. Although, with the speed that this game is finding itself towards mobiles is pretty amazing and it is about to become a global success!
So, what can we learn from this?
The fact that I missed a winner? True, I did, I have missed winners before and I will do so again. Because the public tends to be fickle and it has plenty of distractions pointed in their ways. They are equally influenced by others who tell them what is cool, what is worth trying and what makes a difference.
The growing Hype? Yes, there is a massive growth, especially amongst people who I know to have never shown any serious interest in Pokémon. The question becomes is it because it is on a mobile device, or is it the mobile nature of the game? For now, I feel that there is not enough information to give a clear answer, yet the fact that people are making detours into Hyde Park to get rare Pokémon’s gives value that the trendiness of mobile gaming is one that many are exploring. Giving the makers of this game a large advantage over other games for now.
Yet there is just one part that requires mentioning. You see, what bugged me a little was not that I have missed spotting a winner, but the facts that were shown in Forbes yesterday (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonevangelho/2016/07/10/pokemon-go-about-to-surpass-twitter-in-daily-active-users/#3f90dc517455). The quote “Data published today by SimilarWeb indicates that the mobile game may be poised to surpass Twitter in daily active users on Android“. Now consider that Twitter is global and that Pokémon GO has been in released in three countries. The US, where this game is installed on 5.6% of ALL Android devices (according to Forbes). In Australia where I passed 150 active users from Town Hall to the UTS building (I stopped counting at 150) and in New Zealand, where it is popular with the people and according to the gossip it is popular with roughly 3.4332% of the Sheep population, including a few Flaaffy’s and Mareep’s.
There is no doubt that this trend will follow through in other games. As soon as issues with batter drains is solved, this game will grow its user base even faster. Which beckons the call, are we all gamers now?
You see in the original Star Trek series, in the episode ‘Shore Leave‘ we get the quote ‘the more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play‘, which could be considered a truth in itself. Yet another lane in that road can be gotten from the philosopher José Ortega y Gasset who stated “tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are“, another truth, yet today, that might we one for debate as we see the user population shift all over the mobile field from Facebook to Tinder. In that regard, as we see our delusion that we can devour any line of data and responses into our brain, we are confronted with ego in a nasty way. We seem to lose direction and we seem to lose the ability to correctly sift what is cognition and what is noise.
So how does this apply to ‘Not seeing the hype come?‘ It is for the simple reason that market interpretation is not seeing the noise, but the ability to value the noise to the extent of what is actual data that should be regarded as ‘analysed factual events‘. I believe that the levels of play that Pokémon offers are interestingly simple, yet overall still a tactical challenge. Pokémon lives (as I see it) next to Minecraft when it comes to ‘simplicity of play’, yet the interactive and tactical side to the game makes it fun and challenging. You see, the foundation of the game remains to be a variant on Rock, Paper and Scissors. In the game, Fire defeats Grass, Grass defeats Water and Water defeats Fire. Yet Pokémon took it to an entirely different level as they have Normal, Fire, Water, Electric, Grass, Ice, Fighting, Poison, Ground, Flying, Psychic, Bug, Rock, Ghost, Dragon, Dark and Steel. Some have two elements (like Fighting and Psychic) giving additional tactical options. All this in a game that has been around for 20 years. The fact that we see new life into a game title through evolved gameplay shows that the 91 billion dollar gaming industry is still growing in several directions, all leading, not just towards additional revenue, but to additional forms of gameplay, which is what a gamer tends to like!
Here we see another level of gaming, which is why I mentioned No Man’s Sky, a game that has been 3 years in development. We were introduced to a hype and even though the hype ‘died’ many are still looking forwards to this game that is still destined (at present) to be released on August 10th. This game seems to embrace the simplicity of play through the size of the Universe giving us the option to travel to the centre of the universe again and again until the day we die, with the chance that most planetary visits will be unique experiences. Pokémon gives us ‘simplicity’ in another way, when we consider these elements (in light of Minecraft) that it is interesting how game designers seem to forget (or ignore) what an important element simplicity is in regards to gaming. We might want to ignore Space Invaders and Pac-Man as there were no games in those days.
Yet Galaga was not alone and is still regarded after 30 years as one of the best shooters. Now we see other Kickstarter projects come to life with shooters like Iridium, a very successful title in the golden age of the Commodore 64. It seems that some gamers are figuring out what the people need. A trait larger software houses changed into the premise of ‘we are offering the people what we think they need‘. Now, that premise is not unwarranted, because the gaming industry is to offer what they think the people seem to need. Yet certain failures in the past from more than one software house bring debate to that approach. When we see a ‘definitive edition’ of Tombraider which is graphically amazing, yet comes with a life cycle of 10 hours, we need to wonder whether the developer had thought it through. The fact that I was able to get through the entire game from Friday and finish it Saturday evening gives visibility to the flaw of the game. In light of time there is another game I want to bring to your attention, but in an opposite direction. It is Metal Gear Solid, Phantom of Pain. A game so large that many players have not finished it. Even the blogger Lawlordtobe (yours truly) with the history of gaming has not completed that game at present. So as value goes, it is by far the best bang for your buck a game like this has ever offered. Yet, as I spoke to a fellow gamer who literally stated ‘this game is just too big’, I have to wonder if it is the game or the gamer here? Have we been lulled into complacency by 20 hour games for so long that we no longer recognise the challenge that a real game like Metal Gear Solid V brings (without relying on non-stop repetition)?
I think that there is a balance between size and simplicity. Minecraft, Candy Crush, Threes, Angry Birds and Bejewelled are the most visible examples. Yet the other end of the spectrum does not seem to apply, the more complex a game, the shorter it can be. The fact that Tombraider, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Ryse and Mirrors edge were regarded as too short gives light that the equation is not entirely that simple. In the end, learning what game will actually hypes seems to remain in league with the ability to read tea leaves. You see, I have had a long time high score in predicting winners and I have made a few bad calls too. I did not see Pokémon GO to the extent I should have noticed it and this comes from a person who has been trying to catch them all since 2002. The game has been repetitive at times, yet it never bored me. The brilliance of interaction that the sets needed with Ruby & Sapphire, Fire-Red & Leaf-Green, Black & White, X & Y and the soon to arrive Sun & Moon have given us fun moments to gaming.
And with all these versions, I still did not see this tidal wave of usage coming, because that is where I do not completely agree with a friend who told me that it was because it was free. IOS and Android have plenty of free games, this level of usage has not ever been seen before.
Niantic Labs is sitting on a home-run gold mine. Good for them!