An inside look at Pokémon GO from an addicted player.

By now, if you haven’t heard of Pokémon GO, I’m forced to believe you’ve spent the last couple of weeks living under a rock. The location-based, augmented reality mobile game was released on July 6 for both iOS and Android devices, and it’s taken the mobile world by storm, surpassing Twitter in daily active users, and seeing more engagement than Facebook.

So what’s all the fuss about? Well, have you played it? If you have, then you likely understand the craze. It’s rather addicting. I downloaded it earlier this week, and since then, I haven’t hit the road once without powering up the app in search of some Pokémon. It’s helpful that our “Hard Work Works Hard” mural on the side of our building is a PokéStop I can hit up a couple of times each day.

The overall reviews, however, are mixed. That’s because for almost all the positive features, there’s a flip side. Let’s explore some of those pros and cons here.

Pro: It’s getting kids (and adults, for that matter) outside and moving. Do I wish they were out playing a good ol’ fashioned game of tag, baseball, or really anything else more active? Sure. But at least they’re out getting some sunshine and exercise.

Con: They’re still glued to their phones, and even if they’re out playing with a friend, they may not be conversing much or spending any quality time with that friend. But again, they could be stuck to a screen inside on the couch.

Pro: For marketers, this is the first wildly successful augmented reality app. Was it only a matter of time? Yeah. Did we know that? Yeah. But it’s a validating experience. And it’s one we can work with to drive business. Take L’inizio’s Pizza Bar in Queens. Manager Sean Benedetti paid $10 to have a dozen of the Pokémon characters lured to the store, and it drew so many players that the shop’s business went up 75%.

Con: We have a lot more distracted drivers out there since the release of this game. People really want to catch ’em all. To do so, they need to explore new places. One of the simplest, fastest ways to do this is to jump in the car. This is incredibly dangerous. I know, because I shamefully admit that I’ve opened the app while driving. It’s as bad as texting while driving, but it’s far more tempting. A text will be there when you stop. The Pokémon you passed at the gas station will not be waiting for you wherever you go. So you feel like you have only that one chance. And the cops are looking for it now (if they’re not playing themselves). The New York State DMV sent out a press release on July 12 (just six days after the game’s release!) addressing the issue of driving and playing the game.

The same goes for cyclists and even pedestrians in busy cities. People are walking into other people, riding their bikes into cars, and even stepping out into oncoming traffic because they’re transfixed by the game. A news anchor in Florida had a live segment interrupted by a coworker playing the game.

Pro: It’s a great break from the stress of your day. Like any other semi-mindless activity or game, if you’re feeling stressed at work or school, you can take a break, power up Pokémon GO and get lost in a half-real, half-fantasy world for a bit. Just don’t get stuck in there too long or your day will get away from you quickly.

Con: Pokémon GO isn’t making us any smarter, really. Let me quickly clarify what I mean before elaborating on this point. I already mentioned the benefits for marketers, and I stand by that. But for those who aren’t children and aren’t in the marketing profession, it’s a time suck. I know for me, since I downloaded the app, I have spent less time reading, following the news, or focusing on my other hobbies because I’m starting up the game every time I find myself with a moment of free time.

Pro: The nostalgia is pretty serious for a millennial like me. I grew up with Pokémon cards and Magic: The Gathering. It started with my friends and I playing on the bus, and then when we became a little “too cool” for the game, it turned into a business enterprise – my friends and I would seek out the rarest cards to sell to the younger kids. This game brings back those same kinds of childhood memories for a lot of people.

Con: Privacy. To sign up for the game, you have two options – set up a Pokémon Trainer account, or use your Google account (the username and password for your email account, calendar, and any other Google app you use). A lot of people choose the latter option as it requires less work. But, you should be aware that according to the Pokémon GO privacy policy, game creator Niantic “may disclose any information about you (or your authorized child) that is in our possession or control to government or law enforcement officials or private parties as we, in our sole discretion, believe necessary or appropriate.” This is a slippery slope. Read more about their privacy policy here.

Pro: The data from this game (and other copycats sure to follow) is going to help marketers overcome the scalability and targeting challenges we run into with mobile advertising campaigns. The required login means that user data is being tracked, whether it’s through Google or Niantic. The more people using this, the more data advertisers can tap into for mobile advertising. And this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the in-game location-based advertising options. What if a company with multiple locations was able to set up different, branded PokéStops at their locations for users to fuel up on PokéBalls, or what if they could create a rare, branded Pokémon that was only available at their retail location?


I’m sure there are plenty more pros and cons. If you’ve thought of any we missed, hit us up on Facebook or in the comments section below. And if you’re on the app, be safe and happy hunting!

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