I Finally Played Pokemon Go, Just in Time for Its Big Anniversary Update

TechCrunch’s Greg Kumparak published a deep dive on the big Pokemon Go update that started rolling out as I wrote this post. The update will focus largely on new gyms, cooperative raids, and new items, and Kumparak’s preview is well worth a read if you’re at all interested.

This was my favorite part of the piece, if only for the masterful five-word hyphenation that mashed up ‘ephemeral’ with ‘fairly epic’:

Done right, gym raids will call experienced players together to one spot (and one, that if it’s survived as a Gym to this point, presumably doesn’t mind having Go players show up randomly) and team up for an ephemeral-but-hopefully-fairly-epic experience.

As Kumparak points out, Pokemon Go took the world by storm last Summer. Whether or not publisher Niantic can revive the app’s success in a single code push remains to be seen (Kumparak says No, and he’s almost certainly right). No matter what, though, the app’s initial blockbuster success was a milestone for Augmented Reality.

I finally tried Pokemon Go out for myself this past weekend. I should say, I watched my eight year-old try it out. Three things stood out to me about the experience:

  1. The concept is great, just like we all observed last Summer.
  2. The graphics aren’t particularly impressive, particularly when digital imagery is being overlaid atop a live camera feed. But so what? They’re good enough to make the game flow, and the game is catchy enough and good enough to keep people coming back for more. Again, we saw this last Summer. And I’m experiencing it first-hand now with my son.
  3. AR on phones works precisely because people already have phones, already know how to find and download new apps to their phones, and already carry their phones everywhere.

That last point explains as well as anything why AR is poised to go mainstream and why VR is more likely to find success in b2b, site-specific consumer experiences, and along similar lines as PC and console gaming. At least in the short term.

It also explains why ARKit is such a big deal. Hundreds of millions of iOS users are about to be nudged ever so gently into the land of AR. And many of them probably won’t even know it’s happening.