You might be listening to stories on how your friend or colleague tried to catch Pokémons under their desks, in lobbies, and even in bathrooms. Snippets of how these Pokémons are notoriously getting away are getting rather common.
So, what is happening? Curious why your daily work/study spaces have suddenly turned into live playgrounds for everybody?
Well, after a few years of little to no appearance in the market, Pokémon is making a bit of a comeback. The Nintendo-owned franchise, which exploded in popularity in the late 1990s, is here to take the world by storm through Pokémon GO. This is not only its biggest entry in the mobile space (Android and iOS); it is perhaps the biggest augmented reality game till date. It launched just last Wednesday, and it has already stolen the title of Number 1 Free app in Apple Store. It has pulled Nintendo shares to its highest since 1983. Even though, it has only launched in selected countries, it hasn’t stopped the entire world from realizing their childhood dream of Catching ‘Em All.
It’s so popular that it’s on the verge of overtaking Twitter in terms of daily active users on Android.
To understand the craze of hunting down virtual creatures, we need to walk down the memory lane of the late 90’s for a bit. Remember that time when you would buy a packet of Cheetos just for the Tazo that you got along with it? Or, how about the time when you traded 4 of those water pokémons for your favorite fire one? If you remember anything along those lines, you are one of those who were affected by what they called “Pokémania” back then.
You have played that favorite Nintendo game and later, you made sure you never missed an episode of it. You probably (proudly) still have them all in your hard disk. The concept of Pokémon had originated from Tajiri’s – the creator of Pokémon – childhood habit of insect collecting – a popular hobby in Japan. The story is set in a world of exotic wild creatures with questionable powers along with “Trainers” who train and tame them. You wished in your wake and dreams to be a Pokémon Trainer yourself. You would (time and again) just long to live the adventure of Ash Ketchum and earn all the honors by defeating the Gym Leaders; and just own a Pikachu of your own already.
And, Pokémon GO is here to do exactly that!
Well, not EXACTLY that; Pikachu isn’t real, at least not yet. But, it does hit the sweet spot of nostalgia by fulfilling the fantasy every Pokémon fan has had since the games first came out: Pokémons being real and inhabiting our world; ready to be caught and battled. By using your phone’s ability to track the time and your location, the game imitates what it would be like if Pokémon really were roaming around you at all times.
In general, it is similar to the handheld controller game. You do catch pokémons, and you do battle in PokéGyms. Yet, it is quite different from the traditional game. The basic difference is the game arena, which is the entire world. It imitates the TV show, in which Ash travels the entire world to Catch ‘Em All.
This is further enhanced by Pokégyms and PokéStops, which are notable locations in the real world marked on your in-game map. In PokéStops, you can buy items like Poké Balls, lures and eggs that hatch into full Pokémon.
Moreover, instead of making your Pokémon battle with a wild one, you battle with the wild Pokémon yourself to capture it. In fact, no combat in the game is as it was done before. During the fight with gym leaders, you don’t set up your team of six with four moves each and select among those four moves to outsmart your opponent, as you did in the handheld games. Instead, battles are largely decided by your Pokémon’s combat power — a stat attached to each of your Pokémons.
Currently, the game has no significant multiplayer capability, meaning you can’t battle your real-life friends or trade with them — two functionalities that are very big in the handheld games. Since the game lacks traditional battles, the only way to make your Pokémon stronger and evolve them is with special items, which you can get by catching Pokémon and fighting gym leaders. These activities also boost your trainer level, which opens up content like gyms and raises your chances of finding rarer Pokémon.
The fact that many of the original Pokémon fans are now adults, makes this entire idea even more interesting. And that is mainly the reason why the adults are walking into poles, looking for Pokémons. It seems like an escape from their everyday adult routine life, into their childhood dream of Pokémon Battles for real.
Yes, there have been some cases of aggressive behavior by the players, which poses a huge threat on the future of AR games. But, it also points towards the massive potential that the developers as well as the gamers have in front of them today. Although, Pokémon GO isn’t the first, and nor will it be the last AR game, but evidently, it has already managed to unite people from all cultures and mark history in this arena.