Pokémon GO has broken dozens of records since its release in a handful of countries. It is already the most played game in the US, and broke the record of the highest App Store downloads in a week. Within a short time that it has existed, it’s already forged a legacy for itself. And all of this, despite being released in limited markets. If and when it is released worldwide, there is no doubt that it will possibly be the biggest sensation to hit the world in our lifetimes. Analysts say that Pokémon Go is now worth more than Nintendo itself. This is completely unprecedented; nobody could have predicted this. The sheer success of the game is unlike anything our generation has seen, including Twitter, Facebook, and Whatsapp.
Pokémon Go has been the biggest success in the growth of AR. It projects a virtual world over the real world, and sends people on quests to find different characters of the game. The execution of the game has been outstanding — it got an entire generation of people to get off their couches and go outdoors. Day, night, weekdays, or weekends, people can be found flocking the neighborhood at odd times, just to play a game. Is this the future of entertainment? Is our generation going to trade indoor video games, VR games, and the lot in favor of AR games like Pokémon Go? Well, to understand the answer to that, we have to first analyze the success of Pokémon Go itself.
Despite all the achievements of Pokémon Go, perhaps its biggest success is in its ability to achieve something that our previous generation has not been able to do even after years of berating their children – to finally get this generation outdoors. This generation grew up playing Pokémon, and it’s a game loved by a vast majority of them. There is a great level of nostalgia attached to this game, and the way the game has transformed itself and is now available to the same audience is incredible. The only difference is that those people who enjoyed Pokemon as kids are now adults or teenagers. In an ironic twist of fate, the very same game which kept them indoors in their childhood is now pulling them outdoors. The results of this have been striking. People who wanted their kids to go out are now freaked out.
The reason why parents are worried is that their kids are generally not so experienced with the outdoor world, particularly children of a younger age. But what they overlook is the fact that this is exactly why their kids should go out. A large number of people with mental illness, social anxiety, people who are not good at making friends, etc. are finally meeting strangers, connecting with them, and forging friendships. A simple question of “What team are you?” builds a human bond and connection. Further, unlike the indoor video games and VR games, Pokémon GO does not pitch one player against another. We know online video game chat rooms are filled with abuse. On the other hand, Pokémon GO players will be interacting with other players in the real world, face-to-face. The experience itself is much richer, and healthier. Since nobody is playing against each other, people tend to be courteous to each other. There are team rivalries and “gyms” that Pokémon can battle each other in, but it’s a much more civil and fun competitiveness than games we’ve seen in the past. On the whole, this results in a much more positive experience for the players.
These benefits cannot be reaped when people are playing with VR technology back at home. Analysts say that AR will be a much bigger industry than VR. Some estimates put the AR industry at $90 billion by 2020, while the same estimates for VR is about $30 billion. Clearly, VR will not be wiped out, because there will always be people who like to play indoor games. Moreover, even those who love to play outdoors enjoy occasional indoor games. But, the biggest threat to VR is not AR. In a way, it is VR itself.
The success of Pokémon GO is centered on mobility. The game made use of an already existing technology – smartphones – that people are already using. Anyone with a smartphone can download and play the game as long as the game is released in their country. On the other hand, VR requires special-purpose devices, which can cost anything from $99 (headgear) to $799 (Vive). Naturally, not many people are enthusiastic about this technology and the games it offers, not even considering the expensive computers that are required to operate these devices.
Since VR cannot go the way of AR in adapting to the present technology, its adoption will be slow and not as widespread as AR. Further, since Pokémon GO is giving people a fantastic experience out there in the real world, that doesn’t help the cause of VR either, a purely indoor experience. Yet, VR will thrive, albeit on a relatively smaller scale.