BY: DIYA CHADHA, CONTRIBUTOR
Pokémon GO has taken the world by storm. To many, its appeal stems from the fact that this seemingly modern app is nostalgic – one with the mechanics of the 21st century and the memories of the 90’s. As a result, the game has been embraced by teens and adults alike. With estimates of 9.5 to up to 21 million active users in the U.S. alone, Pokémon GO has made a name for itself in the media and among people nationally and internationally. Because of its immediate success, Pokémon GO has become a notable part of the American culture and its economy.
Pokémon GO incorporates a feature known as augmented reality (AR). Devon Lyon, a media producer, describes AR as “the merging of video games and make-believe play” – simply put, its a more digital and interactive version of live action role play. Users are able to “see” different Pokémon on their phones at locations near them. To do this, the app utilizes GPS and Google Maps to display roadways, along which Pokémon can be “hunted.” And in the age where a majority of life’s tasks can be completed on cellphones, the game actually incentivizes people to go outside and become more active.
Many Pokémon GO players are unknowingly exercising in ways that they normally might not. A user noted that “she inadvertently logged over 8,000 steps while using the app. And other players are realizing a similar trend—catching Pokémon can feel like a workout, or be a fun way to gamify exercise.” In addition to encouraging people of all ages to go outside and exercise, Pokémon GO also has significant benefits with regards to mental health. The game is set up with incremental goals. As users level up, they can earn digital awards for catching a certain amount of Pokémon, walking a certain distance, etc. According to Dr. Marlynn Wei, the “clear structure, immediate feedback, and attainable goals” that can be found in Pokémon GO “are all very helpful, especially for those that suffer from depression, to keep people interested and engaged.” She goes on to explain that for those with social anxiety, Pokémon GO presents a mutual topic of discussion for making new friends.
Pokémon was created by Satoshi Tajiri in 1995. It was first made available for the Game Boy device; and as time progressed, Pokémon games were also released to accommodate new technologies – namely for the Nintendo DS and Wii. Between 2007 and 2010, Nintendo was thriving. But, Pokémon games, as well as the devices that they’re commonly played on, have become less popular in recent years. Instead, more people are leaning towards smartphones and computers for their gaming entertainment. Now, with the release of Pokémon GO, hope of a renewed economic success exists for Nintendo, The Pokémon Company, and Niantic.
Pokémon GO was released as a collaboration between The Pokémon Company and Niantic Labs, a startup originally based out of Google, on July 6, 2016. Following the release of the app, the value of Nintendo, The Pokémon Company, and Niantic Labs soared as people began to buy stock in the aforementioned companies. This unprecedented prosperity, however, did not last long. Due in part to the initial lack of clarity about which companies actually own Pokémon GO and its founders, stock prices have experienced extreme volatility.
After the launch of Pokémon GO, “company shares surged by more than 120%, adding $23 billion to Nintendo’s market value.” At that point, many investors didn’t know that Nintendo only has a 32% stake in The Pokémon Company, and is one of multiple investors in Niantic. Once this information became highly publicized, shares in Nintendo dropped by the daily limit of 18% in Tokyo – a potential loss of up to $6.7 billion in market value. According to Bloomberg, U.S. shares also dropped by about 11% in July. At the same time, Nintendo’s limited growth is still significant for the company. In Japan, for example, Nintendo forecasts a 35 billion yen (approximately $343 million) profit for this year, an increase of 18.5 billion yen (approximately $181 million) when compared to last year.