Pokémon Go: what’s next for this summer’s phenomenon?

Reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

  Pikachu parade in Yokohama  (Yoshikazu Takada)

Pikachu parade in Yokohama (Yoshikazu Takada)

Are you still playing Pokémon Go too? It’s still making millions and remains one of the top grossing apps for both Android and iOS. Yet we’re now past the point where it was fashionable to diss the summer phenomenon and have firmly arrived at the dissection table. OK, wait. That analogy is bringing up too many memories of my undergraduate years. But despite the vast number of think-pieces published on this subject, very few have linked the basic reasons behind its success.

People forget how ubiquitous and influential the Pokémon franchise remains to this day. Many of us in our 20s and 30s yearn for the nostalgic feelings the series brings, or we remain fans like those younger than us, eagerly waiting for November’s release of the Sun & Moon videogames for Nintendo’s handheld console. Spoiler alert: it will sell millions. In fact, it would sell millions regardless of Pokémon Go’s existence.

And yes, many people who aren’t members of this fandom became swept up by the craze, opening the app a few times before letting it gather virtual dust like that “stocks” app. But more superficial moments of collective app-craze take place multiple times a year. Remember Peach? Me neither. And there’ll be another thing that we will all download soon before quickly forgetting about its existence, like the game No Man’s Sky.

But the use of augmented reality and location tied with this incredible franchise are the real reasons behind the game’s longevity. The way we interact with apps and games can affect us in so many different ways. For example, we’ve all accepted (and perhaps tried) Tinder as a mainstay of modern culture. Maybe not all of us. I still prefer having a meaningful relationship with my PlayStation. Yet this crude swiping has led to another hit summer game called Reigns, where you act as a medieval monarch.

John Hanke, CEO of developer Niantic has already hinted at future updates including the ability to trade, player vs player battles and more Pokémon. These will all ensure future (albeit smaller) waves of success for the game.

 (Antonio Tajuelo)

(Antonio Tajuelo)

Adding Pokémon beyond the first roster of 150 will keep up interest for those of us who grew up knowing only the original monsters, whilst alleviating the hunger of younger fans who carry a mental encyclopaedia (or Pokédex) of the many more creatures that have been introduced over the years.

However, the upcoming social updates are what will refine the game and continue to take the series back to its roots. After all, collecting bugs like an amateur entomologist and swapping discoveries during his childhood are the reasons why Satoshi Tajiri created the series. Yes, people will still continue to complain about the game and future examples of augmented reality, and why everyone feels the need to constantly stare at their phones, which is definitely a serious issue.

Yet bumping into someone and meeting new people is perhaps what we need now more than ever, especially with the growing crisis of loneliness among younger people. Whilst phones can be seen as highly isolating and distracting, they can also act as intermediaries to help improve our social interactions. So how can you really complain about what is ultimately a technological aide helping us absorb the world we live in?