Pokémon Go – Nintendo’s New Cash Cow?

(Note: The following article was originally published on July 14, 2016.)

For many casual observers, Pokémon may be best remembered as a trading card, gaming, and TV phenomenon that swept the globe into a frenzy 15–20 years ago. Naturally, the A$60 billion franchise has almost been milked dry over the years, and Nintendo’s struggling Wii U console meant that a breakout hit was highly sought-after. However, Pokémon Go hasn’t just revitalised Nintendo’s dry spell; it has transcended culture, age, and language. More importantly, Pokémon Go has got people to get outside and active once more.
Nintendo is no stranger to fostering fitness and social interaction within its video game titles. Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus have sold a combined total of approximately 43.8 million units. To put this in perspective, both of the aforementioned titles are, on their own, currently one of the top 25 video games ever sold, each surpassing The Sims 2, Skyrim, and even Super Mario World. What makes Pokémon Go different, however, cannot be chalked up to a single catalyst; instead, there are several factors which have paved the way for Nintendo’s latest success.

1: Combining a multibillion-dollar franchise with augmented reality on a global scale.

As already mentioned, Pokémon is huge. You would need to be living under a rock to have not heard of Pokémon Go, much less Pokémon as a franchise. Pokémon Go has infiltrated the public consciousness on an unprecedented scale, especially for a video game. The game has seen whole families on the hunt for the virtual critters, which populate your mobile device depending on your location. The runaway success of the new mobile game has seen Nintendo’s share price spike by A$14.4 billion, a staggering 67% increase from the stock price before the game’s release.

2: Making the game available for free and on a range of mobile devices.

As Nintendo’s first foray into the mobile market, hordes of people who don’t own a Nintendo DS—or other proprietary handheld game consoles by Nintendo—now have the opportunity to see what the big deal about Pokémon is for themselves. Better yet, the fact that the game is free means that people who are new to the Pokémon series can try the game risk-free, increasing the awareness and exposure of Nintendo’s 20-year-old franchise.

3: Capitalising on its users’ propensity to freely advertise the game on social media.

Marketing for video games is a huge industry. Common methods for advertising mobile games are on other mobile games, ads on TV, or ads on websites such as twitch.tv. A significant contributing factor to Pokémon Go’s explosion in popularity is social media. The games virality (not to be confused with ‘virility’) can be felt all over the internet, but it can also be felt in the flesh, with many people congregating and bonding over the game, which sees its players step into the real-world wilderness to catch Pokémon.
One thing is for sure, though: with a battle-mode component sure to be on the way soon, Pokémon Go shows no sign of stopping any time soon.

— Ben Schultz