Pokémon GO: Real World Gamification Live

2016-07-25 13:28:43

Pokémon GO is the augmented reality game developed by Niantic then released by Nintendo. Launched on July the 6th the ensuing chaos and the worldwide buzz sent Nintendo’s market value North by 200% in a little under 2 weeks. If there was ever a doubt surrounding the future of augmented reality apps, it’s gone. Augmented reality in this case being used to apply game elements to non-game environments bears a striking resemblance to the description applied to Gamification. The similarities don’t stop there either, competition, fun, community, rewards structures, level-ups, progress bars the constantly changing landscape to keep interest heightened all contribute to make gasification and augmented reality very similar propositions. The connection between user and app is clearly emotional and deeper; it’s a fully gamified reality

We need to first touch on Pokémon the phenomenon before going into detail on this new development in its lifecycle. Pokémon is one of the most recognizable brands in the world amongst children and parent’s alike. Very few Millennial couldn’t identify a Pokémon and they have enjoyed sharing the fun with their children too. There are movies, cartoons, dolls, models, cuddly toys, posters, images on cereal boxes, themed events and that’s before we get to the enormous success of the games. More than one a year with more than 15 editions that excludes the mini games and mobile games too, BUT, the game was up. The basic principle of Pokémon is explore the world and find them all, it had reached a tipping point where the interest was fading.

To combat the loss of interest and reengage with Millennials (and their children) they had to switch out of the console world and get into people’s hands and so Pokémon GO was built for smartphone. Necessity is the mother of all invention right!! Pokémon GO hits today’s users with everything they desire that’s what we’ll take a look at today.

Pokémon GO: Success features


In addition to the fact that the game can played with nothing more than your smartphone, one of the biggest drivers in Pokémon Go success is the hype surrounding ‘Augmented Reality’ and the ability to grab photo’s in app while on the hunt. The former was a clean sweep, not only did Pokémon Go land in the same timeline as ‘Augmented Reality’ vs. ‘Virtual Reality’ but it has actually become an Augmented Reality poster child. It has literally become a viral phenomenon and that’s before we even get into social media…

Taking a picture while on a hunt live in the action while playing the biggest game in the world. It’s not as if Millennials and Generation Z need much encouragement to share everything on social media as it is let alone provide them with even more incentives. From Mum’s and Dad’s reliving there childhood and sharing their childhood love of Pokemon with their children to Grandma Betty with Jigglypuff and your best friend with a Pikachu. Nostalgic, generation spanning, unreserved fun, the fact is this is built to go Viral and own social media.

Millennials are also super competitive, so sharing progress amongst friends has meant that the motivation to train harder and play longer to get ahead and update status is enormous. The social buzz is very, very loud. It is impossible to check Facebook, Tinder, Twitter, any of your feeds for that matter without seeing one or more contacts with a Pokémon status update. The volume of users and teams out there looking to conquer opposing GYMS in their cities, towns and villages all over the world is just monumental.

Look at what happened in New York July 16th. A vary rare Pokémon a ‘Vapereon’ was reported as appearing in Central Park, within an hour social media had caused roads to close down as hundreds of people stormed the park, this was after 11.00pm, Just wow!!!!


Personalization is another key aspect. As much as Millennials and recent generations crave community they crave individualization more. They customize literally anything and everything they can. Brands latched on to this a while ago and Pokémon GO is no exception. Avatars can be created within Pokémon GO that allow a player to personalize their appearance and theme and become Pokémon Trainers, this creative process instills in players a sense of ownership, responsibility for and emotional connection to the game that is at times all consuming. That this is an engaging game is beyond question.


Pokémon GO is, as if you didn’t know, a free game readily available in the App Store or the Play Store. Of course it’s free, Angry Birds, Candy Crush Saga, Clash of Clans and all truly successful games were free, with one caveat. If you want to progress quickly you can, now the in app purchase button gets a hammering. We can talk about community and being individuals and truly connected and predisposed to games and tech and tech savvy and many more things that describe modern culture, we cannot however add patience to this list. That is a virtue that fled many moons ago. The in app purchase of coins to progress is the cherry on the cake for Nintendo; this is where it will make its financial killing.

Pokemon Go 4

Community feeling

Once a player reaches level 5 there is a choice to make. A player must choose between three different factions: Mystic (Blue), Instinct (Yellow) or Valor (Red). It’s another layer to the competition. The introduction of teams means that once you have selected your team there are two teams to defeat. Each player entering level 5 is suddenly part of a community with a common goal; defeat those Gyms.


The Pokedex is the most addictive element of the entire game fabric: all users rush to collect as many Pokémon as possible, the progress they and others make and share creates competition and a need to continue, to collect more. Once a player begins their journey into the game they have ownership of their progress because they worked, both physically and virtually for each Pokémon they captured, they earned their progress and their level-ups.

They cannot simply walk away as this would mean all their efforts have been wasted. It’s like any addictive empire building game, the level ups in Clash of Clans for example, but with the addition of real world efforts. The fear of missing out or losing progress drives players to keep coming back.

The underlying goal of collecting all Pokémon is a very effective guiding thread. When this is combined with a player’s ability to access and play anywhere, anytime and on virtually any connected device, progress is constant and keeps Pokémon GO firmly planted in player’s everyday activities.

Gamification Process

The game methodology is quite simple: a player need only walk around to catch the Pokémon and fight with others. For many people, this might not work as nowadays people tend towards a more sedentary lifestyle. The call of the couch and remote control after a hard days sitting down in front of a computer is undeniable. Gamification overcomes this issue though, that is what gamification is about, influencing user behaviors


At the beginning of the game, Professor Oak introduces himself and shows players how to navigate the app. He walks them through the main features and the objectives of the game. Professor Oak becomes a familiar feature throughout the game, dropping in to provide tips and guide players on at key moments where he can add value and information. He is also there to take any unwanted Pokémon you send hi in return for ‘Candy’ that will help progress your other captured Pokémon.

With Professor Oak, Pokémon GO accomplishes one of the main benefits of gamification, which is guiding users with a coherent thread they can understand and thus maximizing their experience. The guide acts to bring them along with a familiar face in times of doubt or confusion.


As in the original game, the main objective is to catch all Pokémon in the Pokedex, completing your collection. Pokémon GO includes side missions also, within each user profile is a list of missions along with the rewards they can earn for completing them. Visiting 100 Poke Spots for example will win a badge, there are currently 3 levels of badges Copper, Silver and Gold all put there solely to maintain interest and encourage participation. These shorter quick to complete missions along with the immediate rewards instill a sense of progress that leads to extended interactions and a stronger bond with the game


The introduction of surprise elements keeps players on their toes. Measured unexpected events prevent boredom and create anticipation. Players have no idea where some of the rare Pokémon will appear, or which Pokémon will hatch following the 2-5km incubation effort they make. Poke Spots contents will change with time also revealing stronger Pokémon and various other items. The not knowing is key to maintaining interest


The only actual reward that players receive from the game is badges. The real prize is capturing new Pokémon and progressing through the levels, but these short-term rewards for mini-missions introduce a steady stream of recognition and feedback from the game. The missions serve to deepen each players sense of progress and engage them in a way that the longer-term goal of completing the Pokedex alone could not. They also provide more share-moments to hit players social feeds which as discussed before is a key component for millennials who just love to share their accomplishments.

The current list of Pokémon is 150 so as long as interest and engagement are maintained Nintendo has more than 700 Pokémon still to release into their vivid digireal landscape. The list of Game Mechanics they can employ to rejuvenate the gamescape, when necessary, is also extensive. Fighting other users, competitions, time sensitive Pokémon appearances, they will not lack for new features to engage, impress and surprise.


Pokémon GO: Benefits


This is one of the most impressive features of Pokémon GO IMO. If players want to fight in the gyms, collect objects, capture Pokémon or in any way make progress through the game they are obliged to mobilize. Well, apart from the Hackers and the Drone pilots who are exploiting the game that is, but let’s focus on the real players not the muppets…

In under a month, we saw how many people got off the couch and got outside. They walked, they ran with friends, they ventured outside and behaved according to the dictates of the game. This fact contains the most powerful message to brands about the capacity of gamification to activate and influence behaviors of their users. Pokémon GO is NOT an online only experience where players SIT in a bubble surrounded by walls they are outside interacting with friends and other players, they are on their feet and active interacting with the real world while still inside the virtual gamescape. Incubating eggs requires a walk of 2,5,10km. Tell someone they need to walk 5km three times a week for their health they sit in front of the television, show them an egg they walk 10. This is gamification, this is the future, and it is simply fantastic…   

Child obesity, which is one of the main problems in developed countries and only set to weigh ever heavier on economic resources can be addressed through gamification. Those of us in the industry know that gamification can address real world problems. Here are some examples:

Use the stairs

Reduce speeding vehicles

Improve pain treatment for children suffering from cancer  


Nowadays, some of the most famous game consoles allow users to play online with their friends, they combined gameplay with a virtual community and followed the trend of making the game come to the player and then allowed their friends in to play with them. In a world of convenience and instant gratification why ask people to make any effort….

Pokémon GO has turned that on its head, you want progress get up!!! They may not deliver the message in quite such a frank manner but gamification delivers the message in such a way as to make it compelling to players. The uptake of Pokémon go proves the viability of gamification as an influence and brings friends back together in the real word.

Pokemon Go 3

Business use of Gamification

The gamification of real life using Pokémon GO has attracted the attention of many companies that want to get a Poke Spot or a Gym on their premises which would increase the footfall to their business and boost exposure of their goods.

This option opens a door for Niantic/Nintendo to close advertising or partnership agreements all around the world in an extremely profitable way. We don’t expect to be kept waiting long, there will be announcements in the press very shortly, about this aspect of Pokémon GO.

This fusion of technology, psychology, game mechanics and innovation can be found also in Hooptap Funbound, the perfect engagement tool based on gamification to create a special customer journey, using fun and surprise to boost customer retention, activation and stimulate their interactions. If you liked this post or the idea of applying these elements to smartphones, you might like our project with MTS about gamification and phones.

Gamification and indeed Hooptap offer a new and very interesting world of possibility for business, educators, employers, advertisers, anyone with a message to share who can use the virtual world as a device to improve the real world. Bringing everyone back outside, using the virtual world to better the real world. Adding Games to everyday life to enrich and compliment it.

Gamification is beyond doubt technology at its best. Augmented Reality is the key to pushing gamification into the main stream and we are very excited to see what we can achieve.

This post is also available in: Spanish

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