Clickbaity enough title for you? I’m only slightly ashamed. Pokémon Go is clearly not the most important video game of all time. Is it a really important one? Oh yeah. Is it more important than people may realize? You’d better believe it. Now, I’m going to preface this by saying that I have yet to play Pokémon Go. Though it can be played in Canada, it’s technically not on the Play Store or the App Store. Combined with the fact that I only have 300mb of data a month, I not in that huge of a rush to play it. But that doesn’t really matter, the importance of the game does not come from me playing it, rather it comes from the fact that everyone’s playing it. Absolutely everyone. Check out social media for a second. What do you see? Probably Pokémon Go. Pictures, memes, and stories, the game is absolutely everywhere. In fact, a July 10 article by Forbes showed that usage of the game on Android is ready to surpass Twitter in the US. Nintendo stock took a massive jump after the launch of Pokémon Go last Wednesday. So, what exactly is the big deal? People like Pokémon, this isn’t really news. Well the thing is, it seems to be more than just gamers that are playing it.
One of the most common Pokémon Go stories that I see on social media is that of cops playing the game. A police officer sees a bunch of people with their heads down hanging near a back alley, probably something shady going down, right? Nope, there’s just a Pikachu nearby. So what does the cop do? Laughs it off and asks how to download the game. Now, I’m sure these are isolated incidents. Not every cop is going to be playing Pokémon Go. But when was the last time that you heard of them wanting to download a video game? Yeah, there are certainly cops who are gamers, and I’m sure a lot want to download video games. But those ones will already know about Pokémon Go, they’re not going to be asking people on the street how to get it. If they’re asking people on the street how to get it, they may not even know how to download apps onto their phones. The other most common story is that of people, indirectly, meeting up over Pokémon Go. The game is actually a very social one. Take the group of people in the back alley I mentioned earlier. They were all brought to that location by a stray Pikachu, had it not been right there they probably wouldn’t have met. Games these days are not that social, people tend to go into a party of their friends and not talk to anyone else. Back in the Halo 3 days, I remember lots of people having mics, and talking amongst each other. Now it’s rare for someone to have a mic, and if they do they’re often a very mutable person, to say the least. Heck, in Destiny don’t you even opt out of the public chat, you have to opt in. Think about that, you have to go out of your way if you want to talk to people in a game that’s supposed to revolve heavily around meeting up with people.
The interesting thing is, I’m not sure that Nintendo intended (Nintended?) for all this to happen. Pokémon Go is clearly bigger than they had expected. Ninatic, the developer that worked alongside Nintendo and the Pokémon Company to create Pokémon Go, rolled the game out in only a few countries initially. Staggered releases like this are used to test the waters, for example server capacity, almost like a beta that’s also a complete game. It wasn’t even released in the US at first, likely its biggest market. Thought the US release happened pretty quick, Pokémon Go was originally rolled out only in smaller markets like Australia and New Zealand. And yet it still experienced server issues from day one, so much so that Niantic had to pause the international release of the game. Now, day one server issues aren’t that uncommon these days. As much as it sucks, lots of AAA games have connectivity troubles on launch day. But those often go away pretty quickly, and you have to remember that those happen after a global release, not before. Although Pokémon Go is now out in the US, which will account for a lot of users, the fact that Niantic has stopped rolling it out in other markets (for now) likely means that they did not expect such a server load.
So why is Pokémon Go so important? Well, simply because of the sheer number of people who are playing. Yes, a lot of people play any big game, and Pokémon is one of the biggest franchises out there. But Pokémon Go is getting lots of people who might not normally play video games to play. And I know what you’re going to say, it’s a mobile game and lots of people who wouldn’t consider themselves games play mobile games. But let me reiterate: Pokémon is one of the biggest games out there. Loads of non-gamers know what Pokémon is, and may have picked up Pokémon Go for that reason. Will it get those people to buy a console or build a PC? Eh, probably not. But Pokémon Go has effected society as a whole in ways no other game really has in the short time it’s been out. Be it cops playing the game, strangers hanging out while trying to nab a tricky catch, or coffee shops saying people have to buy something to play the game in the café. Pokémon Go has found its way out of the gaming community in a way no other game has. Video games have grown into a huge industry, but one that people outside still don’t really understand. Maybe, just maybe, Pokémon Go will be what makes them understand.
Are you playing Pokémon Go? What team do you swear allegiance to?
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