Why Pokémon is More Popular than Most Social Media in 2016

If you’ve had access to Facebook lately, or you know anyone under the age of 30, you’ve probably seen the term ‘Pokémon’ showing up again for the first time in about ten years.  Back in the days when there were Pikachu toothbrushes and Squirtle pajama pants all over your local Target, this wouldn’t have been surprising–Pokémon is a phenomenon all parents in the late 90’s and early 2000’s had to become familiar with.  But why now?  What has caused the resurgence of such a popular series?  And how on Earth is it rivaling Twitter in its number of users in 2016?

Use those Pokéballs wisely--your favorite Pokémon won't wait around forever for you to catch them!

Use those Pokéballs wisely–your favorite Pokémon won’t wait around forever for you to catch them!

What is Pokémon Go?


The Pokemon Company was created by Satoshi Tajiri in 1995, and since then, it has absolutely exploded in terms of popularity.  Despite being a Japanese franchise, it has traveled to the US and has been popular for over 20 years.  There’s a cartoon, a card game, and countless video games dedicated to Pokémon, all of which have been extremely popular with kids and adults and all ages in between.  Whether you’ve grown up with Pikachu, or you’re an eight-year-old just discovering him, Pokémon is extremely accessible.


Last week, Niantic released their long-awaited app game for mobile Smartphones–Pokémon Go.  It’s an augmented reality game, which means it uses your phone camera to show your surroundings and in-game characters, melding them together.  The point of the game is to walk around your local area, while the GPS signal follows you and alerts you to Pokémon that are in the immediate vicinity.  Other users can see the same Pokémon, and there are certain real-world points that act as “Pokéstops”, which can replenish your supply of Pokémon-catching items.  Essentially, it’s social media inside of a game–you can battle other people’s Pokémon, band together to form specific factions, and get a little party going to travel the neighborhood looking for rare Pokémon.


Why is it so stupidly successful?


Simply put, it’s fun.  Wandering around while looking for the best, rarest Pokémon is addicting–these little critters are brightly-colored and it’s a sign of great status to catch something like a Gyarados or a Flareon (trust me, it’s very exciting to see these pop up on your radar).  But beyond that, it combines social companionship with a long-loved franchise that everyone is familiar with.  Even people who haven’t really kept up with the series since they were kids can reminisce, though it may just for the casual few minutes per day.  It is the most popular downloaded app in the App Store, and of Android users, 3% of the entire US population are active on the app.  In less than a week, it has surpassed the number of Tinder users.  Nintendo (the major company that controls the franchise) stocks have risen 20%.  And with more people, it becomes even more exciting to play, because you know that anyone looking down at their phone while wandering around the neighborhood is busy looking for their favorite Pokémon.


It’s still in beta, but there’s no doubt that companies will eventually be able to use its popularity to their advantage.  Keep your eye out for updates!


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