‘Pokemania’ comes close to describing what is happening in the UK. With rolling server cut outs, franchises such as Pizza Express jumping on the PR bandwagon, and cases of people getting hurt while hunting Magikarp – the country has gone mad for the digital critters. The game is a massive success, and the hype from across the Atlantic has seeped its way into Europe long before its release, helping it generate a large bump in early popularity. And yet at the time of writing this, the top level being reached is level 30, and no rare Pokemon have been caught yet as no player has reached the required level to do it. Expect more news articles in the future from Mashable when the first Mewtwo is caught on a lonely hill in West Virginia, which will then be swamped by people of all colors and creeds. And ultimately, it is also a force of good, having people go outside (albeit while staring at a screen) and interacting with other Pokemon trainers. James Pearce of Mobile News noted that a chat function would strengthen these bonds: if a trainer tries to invade your gym, messaging them would create a sense of community.
Yet it is also a very simple game. Gyms and PokeStops are placed based on the geometric data of Google Maps, and players are expected to throw Pokeballs to capture Pokemon rather than directly battle them like in previous games. Battling them also means swipes and taps of fingers, a spamfest where the winner is dictated by stats rather than knowledge or skill. It can’t be considered a good game, when Ingress, Niantic’s other title, provides five times the features.
But it is Pokemon. All that was needed was Pokemon for it to be successful. At the heart of the Pokemon games is adventure, and capturing new Pokemon for a collection, and this concept was distilled and installed into a device hooked with the purpose through GPS. With the shiny lick of paint the bright colors brought in interest from the core Pokefans as well as make it newsworthy for news houses. If anything else was selected, then the popularity of the game may be significantly lower – it’s franchise-led, not technology.
The news has centered around the Pokemon aspect while discussing the game: Pikachus running around Leicester Square; Pokemon being ‘digital demons’ who ‘infest churches’; people protecting Karl Marx’s tomb with an Electrabuzz. Veins of the technology enter discussions, but it is its franchise appeal which makes the papers. Perhaps with future updates which expand on the games the focus may shift. For example, the ability to request more PokeStops and Gyms in areas with less coverage – such as villages or rural areas – is a benefit which will help players in those communities. But largely discussions on these games are quiet on the rudimentary use of technology, save for in the tech journalism sphere.
In a way, the popularity of the game would not have reached so far if the game was any more complicated than it is now. Simplicity in technology means wider access, and adding more layers restricts this. This has been shown many times for the simplest of things – Netflix adding half-stars to the ratings system lowered the number of people rating their movies. The same goes for Pokemon, with a game so simple that walking and tapping is all that is needed for progression complements the franchise appeal. Pokemon GO will be popular, and the lack of complexity will benefit that. Just do not expect anything earth-shattering while it reaps in millions.