© nintendo Analysis | July 22, 2016

Pokémon Go and the power of brand on mobile

Location-based & augmented reality game Pokémon Go launched on July 6, 2016 in just three countries: USA, New Zealand, Australia on iPhone and Android.
Five days later it topped both the top grossing and top free download app charts in all three countries.

The Pokémon brand has propelled Pokémon Go to a chart-leading position extremely quickly. But to succeed long term the Pokémon franchise must demonstrate it has successfully adapted to the mobile platform and to mobile audiences’ ongoing expectations. If the game does not tailor its experience successfully for mobile, then the Pokémon Go audience will decline and fail to become a real mobile hit. In effect, the strong Pokémon brand, means it is far too early to know if Pokémon Go is a star for the long term.

Twenty years after the original Pokémon game’s Japanese Gameboy release, and despite the relative decline of the handheld game console market, the Pokémon company generates enormous revenues from its brand. In 2015 alone it enjoyed USD 2.1 billion revenue. If it can build Pokémon Go into a successful ongoing mobile franchise there is tremendous potential to boost merchandise revenues significantly by appealing to the vast mobile audience a mobile game can reach with new Pokémon merchandise.

Brand alone cannot explain Pokémon Go’s uptake, because it is neither the first mobile Pokémon game, nor is it the first location-focused mobile game. In late 2015, Pokémon Shuffle launched globally, but it was a spin-off puzzle game rather than a mainstream Pokémon title and received mixed reviews. Ingress and Shadow Cities, among others, both showed the potential for mobile location as a game mechanic. Instead, IHS believes it is the combination of brand, interesting location-based game design, and a mainstream Pokémon focus which underpins this initial success.

Early signs are good that the Pokémon Company understands the difference between smartphone-based mobile games and other mobile or gaming platforms. It has wisely partnered with an expert in mobile location apps through its choice of Niantic. Until late 2015, Niantic was a Google subsidiary, originally created inside Google by Niantic CEO John Hanke, who had previously founded Google Earth. Niantic’s other mobile apps include Foursquare-style app, Field Trip, and location-based game Ingress.

But Pokémon Go is even more significant as a sign of the potential for other game brands to do well on mobile. Nintendo, Sony Playstation and Microsoft Xbox have a tremendous opportunity if they fully embrace mobile rather than keeping smartphones somewhat at arm’s length from their established console businesses, and instead offer their best franchises on smartphones.

Author: Ian Gogg. / The full analysis can be found at IHS Technology.


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