how Pokémon Go poked the world in action!

November 26, 2016

Niantic Labs has redefined gaming and the realm of augmented reality with Pokémon Go. Thousands got hooked instantly and there was stampede, literally, at various locations for catching rare Pokémons. Rajat Dhariwal dissects this phenomenon and analyzes how this craze has grabbed everyone’s attention.


July 6, 2016 was the event. Pokémon Go has taken over the world as of this writing. Earth, sky, oceans are filled with the ‘Pocket Monsters’. Niantic Labs, creator of Pokémon Go, has truly struck gold! And a ton is being written about it. So why

add to it — because the reviews seemed retrospective and superficial. When something so big happens and takes the world by surprise, it is not often ‘what you see’ but something more primal at play, which even the creators may not have realized. I saw the reviews and ‘expert’ talks saying that the virality is mainly because of the beloved Pokémon IP — but then why did Disney Playmation not fly despite arguably having a stronger IP of Iron Man? By that logic, every Tom Cruise movie should have hit the
billion-dollar mark. The other reason given is, because it makes people act socially, again a typical ‘what you see’ remark. But it does not explain what is it that has suddenly got these people together, the same folks who are earphone-plugged on buses and are soon to be VR-cut-off from the real world?

We at SuperSuit , the first-ever wearable gaming platform, have been doing extensive market research for the last eighteen months. And here is the model which we believe explains what is really at play. A model which explains how something becomes a surprise mass movement irrespective of the domain and we will see it being applied from hand sanitizers to political uprisings to Pokémon Go!

(Innovation guru Ranjan Malik explained the model many years ago!)




There should be a big problem, which people have subconsciously assumed is not possible to be solved. Such as corruption or fear of catching germs when shaking hands — people did not like them, but did not think it was possible to be avoided.



When we talked to hundreds of families from Bay Area to Bengaluru to Tampa (Florida), we saw teens and young adults say that outdoor play (not counting organized sports) was their favorite form of play. This was surprising because they spend more than ten hours daily* in front of some sort of screens (a lot of which goes in video gaming with Xbox, DS, mobiles, Tablets and PC), as opposed to two hours a week on outdoor play. As we inquired further we realized three key things:

01 They loved the social aspect of interacting with their friends. The only reason it was not happening as much as it used to in the past is—it is difficult to gather friends today and lack of many new/as-fun-as video game options. They essentially wanted video game mechanics such as leveling up, power-ups, quests, and downloading more games in the real world, which they assumed was not possible yet.

02 Outdoor gaming had sneaked its way to a ‘third space’ — a space between the screen-dominated indoors and the great outdoors, where we used to play soccer, baseball, etc. And we did not find any products designed specifically for this space. It was full of free play with occasional hide-and-seek/tag sessions or constrained forms of sports such as football/badminton etc.

03 A subtler aspect is about the gameplay itself. What is it about certain games like hide-and-seek/racing/wrestling which have lasted across centuries, mediums, geographies, and age groups? They appeal to a much more primal part of our nature like fighting for survival, racing to escape from being caught as a prey. Pokémon Go appeals to the primal instinct of foraging—the instinct of searching for food or provisions, or digging up and finding something.


02 magical and cheeky solution

A super easy-to-use and cheeky solution, which seems almost magical—such as pressing the hand sanitizer nozzle (cheeky, compared to using sterilized gloves) and rubbing your hands to make the germs go poof (magical)!



What could be cheekier than catching furry, little pocket monsters! And the super-easy magical part was to just look at the world through your phone, as you are walking, to catch the Pokémon. Which is why the Pokémon+ wearable is going to be a big hit. It makes it even easier to spot Pokémon, as it takes away even the step of looking when one is available!



03 network effect

Either many people use it together or even if one person uses it, others can see. That gives a social validation and also shows how it is easy to use. Like, hand sanitizers were installed in hospital alleys where late adopters and skeptics could see it being used by others.



This is the kicker. Yes, the experience is social with the standard game mechanics of leveling up, sharing, and battles but the small fact that all the players see the same world and the same Pokémon creates a powerful sense of having a ‘shared’ experience.