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The Genius Behind Pokemon and the Lessons About Innovation

The Pokémon phenomenon is too big for anyone not to notice. Pokemon Go hit No. 1 in the App pokemon goStore almost immediately, and it’s changed the behavior of thousands of people, who have literally left their desktop screens and televisions to roam their neighborhoods in search of Pokémon to capture.

The game has gotten so big, it’s even been reported to be more popular than the previously most downloaded app, Tinder.  According to Digital Vision, “Pokémon Go is installed on more U.S. Android devices than Tinder.” This just two days after its release!  And not only has it achieved more downloads, it’s also far exceeding other apps in terms of daily active users – an impressive 60%!

For anyone in the innovation space, this phenomenon begs some important questions, as well government fundingas some essential notes about government grants and financing opportunities for innovators and entrepreneurs: What is the innovation driving the game’s success and what lessons about innovation does it shed light on(especially in the digital age)? Where is this technology heading next, and what are the opportunities for innovators and entrepreneurs?

What is the innovation behind the Pokémon phenomenon?   

The majority of onlookers point to augmented reality (AR) as the novel factor driving the Pokemon phenomenon.  Examining the game in more depth, however, you will find that AR actually plays a minimal role in its success. The only time you use the camera for an AR experience is when catching a virtual Pokémon. Many gamers, in fact, turn this feature off to save battery life and make it easier to catch the Pokémon. Not a slight on the role of AR as part of the game’s success, but what really makes the game interesting is the use of geolocation data – real-time maps with key locations highlighted all around you.

How this came about is relevant.   The game was built on many years of geocached data of real-world objects and locations from a game called Ingress, built by Pokémon Go developer Niantic Labs.

In the early days of Ingress, Niantic formed a beginning pool of portal locations for the game based on historical markers, as well as a data set of public artwork mined from geo-tagged photos on Google. They then asked Ingress players to submit places they thought were worthy of being portals. 15 million submissions later, 5 million of these locations were established worldwide. The Ingress portal data set was so robust, it was chosen as the starting point for Pokémon Go.

What does this say about how innovation happens?

The big lesson here is leverage.  The first levers in this success story are the tech and data that was already established: GPS, Google Earth.  Then a critical mass of users to create the ubiquitous platform: the smart phone.  Then game players themselves are leveraged to create user generated content on a global scale.  Ostensibly the innovation in Pokemon Go is AR, but practically speaking the real innovation was leveraging what was already there in a brilliant way.

What does the Pokémon phenomenon say about where tech is heading?

Without all of the levers being in place, this game would not have been possible –and no one would have been thinking about the potential of exploring geo-location data in this way.

Now that it has been done, it’s opened up a new avenue for similar developments. It’s interesting to think about how other locations or destinations could use this concept. Think about Disneyland, for example, having a mini-game inside the park and allowing people to collect Disney brand characters, battle for locations, or anything else they dream up as a virtual and augmented experience.

Innovators and entrepreneurs get your pencils out and start scratching out ideas.  It’s not about repeating what Pokémon Go has done, but about learning the lesson from how they innovated.

Use what is already there in a new way.

Financial leverage for innovators and entrepreneurs

Keep building and make plans to build more.  We’re lucky to have a rich government granting and financing environment in Canada to support these efforts.  The following is a bit about the world of financial leverage for innovators and entrepreneurs.

Contact us for a free consultation to learn more about R&D funding opportunities!