Alright, ten thousand people have already written, at great length, about the features, server instabilities, updates, and market penetration of Pokemon Go. What I’m finding more interesting is the launch strategy, the stickiness, and what we should be learning from the app.
It hit the market at the right time.
If this technology had been accessible back when Gameboy was at its peak, there would have been millions of kids wanting to roam the streets at night with their (not-yet-invented) smartphones. The generation that initially had their hearts and minds captivated by Pokemon have now grown up, have the freedom and flexibility to explore, and they have the money for all that virtual currency goodness. There’s no doubt that nostalgia has played a huge part in the initial success.
Ask yourself: Am I hitting the market at the right time? What would make the timing even better?
They captured the audience right away.
If you’ve played with the app, surprise and delight hits you in the first few minutes of gameplay when you land your first Pokemon in AR mode. By seeing a Zubat flying over your oblivious colleague’s head or a Pidgey standing outside 7/11, that instant ‘real factor’ kicks in almost immediately. First impressions count, and Niantic were smart to embed that fun component so you experience it the minute you download it.
Ask yourself: What can I do to create a unique experience for new clients/customers/users to build immediate cred?
They validated their product.
Needless to say, if you’re not validating pre-launch, you’re possibly building your value proposition for no one. As innovative as Pokemon Go feels, this isn’t Niantic’s first rodeo. Their last release, Ingress, validated the notion that players would be willing to travel to real-world locations to progress in a game. Without this validation, Pokemon Go would have been a bigger gamble than it was.
Ask yourself: Who has done what I’m attempting before? What have I done before that leads me to believe what I’m working on will work?
They’ve learned from their instabilities.
While users have been complaining about servers being down, all reports indicate that usage hasn’t dropped – If anything, we’re seeing continued growth after a few weeks in. They rolled the app out in New Zealand and Australia, before the US, and then the rest of the world, and have turned off features that drove server load issues (purposefully causing the infamous ‘3 step bug’).
Ask yourself: Based on my past results, what do I need to change to get better?
The platform is still sticky, even as the game mechanics get harder.
When you throw a Pokeball in the game, there’s the hit and miss aspect. You know you’re more likely to win than lose, but not enough for it to be a sure bet. The higher your level, the more skill/strategy that goes into winning every Pokeball flick. A near-win triggers the same neurological reaction in your brain as a win, a similar reaction experienced when gambling.
Ask yourself: What am I doing to increase stickiness with my users/customers/clients?
They built hype.
Google whet the public’s appetite as part of an April Fool’s campaign over two years ago. Keep in mind, Niantic CEO John Hanke’s last position was the VP of Google Maps and Niantic was formed within Google in 2011 before being spun out in late 2015. Don’t think for two seconds that the writing wasn’t on the wall when the Google April Fool’s campaign went live in 2014.
Late last year, Niantic released their own video announcing the game. While aesthetics have changed dramatically, this release got all the die-hard Pokemon trainers pretty excited.
Ask yourself: How do I create an early experience to share the vision?
It’s sharable, but not in the conventional format.
At present, there is no in-game chat, or ability to find other players in the game. Therefore, the community has self-organised, and players have resorted to creating their own Facebook communities. When the game first launched, I won over two local gyms over a weekend, then posted about it in one of the local Facebook groups. Less than an hour later, a handful of other players had seen my post, headed in from around Brisbane, and strengthened the gym (#MysticForLife).
Ask yourself: Who are my raving fans? What am I doing to empower them to celebrate their passion for what I do?
Now, brb, I’m off to farm some Magikarp #justyouwait.
About the Author:
Matt Kelly is an overtly excitable marketer, and is the MD at JMD.