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Case Code: ITSY092
Case Length: 16 Pages 
Period: 2016-2017    
Pub Date: 2017
Teaching Note: Available
Organization : The Pokemon Company
Industry : Games app
Countries : US; Japan; Europe; Global
Themes: Digital marketing  
/Game Development
Case Studies  
Business Strategy
Human Resource Management
IT and Systems
Leadership & Entrepreneurship

Pokémon Go: Disrupting the Disruptors in Mobile Gaming

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The concept for the game Pokémon Go originated in the ‘Google Maps Pokémon Challenge’, created by Satoru Iwata of Nintendo and Tsunekazu Ishihara (Ishihara), CEO of The Pokémon Company, in association with Google in 2014 as an April Fool’s Day joke. Google posted a video on YouTube mentioning a fake competition in which the people who were successful in finding all Pokémon hidden in real world locations could join Google in the role of the Pokémon Master . The video showcased some dangerous stunts and illogical feats, such as a scene where a person was seen climbing a rock with a phone camera to look for a creature hidden in a cave and another person was shown trying to catch a rare Pokémon in the middle of parachute landing. The video was a huge hit and crossed 18 million views. Hanke was the vice president of Google Geo at that time. He said, “Pokémon started appearing on Google Maps on April Fools’ Day, and people seemed to really love that combination of Maps and Pokémon. Just, everything about the brands and the experience seemed like a good fit.” ..
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After installing the Pokémon Go, the player was required to sign in using his/her Google account to access the game. After signing in, the player would be able to select a digital avatar by choosing the looks of his/her character before playing the game. The player would enter the main area of the game called The Pokémon Go map which was a brightly animated version of Google Maps. When the player walked around, the avatar also would move using GPS. When a Pokémon popped up in the map, the phone would vibrate. ...


Analysts felt that Pokémon GO needed hardly any marketing due to its popularity since 20 years. The main marketing tools for Pokémon Go were exploration of new places and socialization with new people. Apart from these, the game engaged players with physical exercise by making it necessary for them to walk around to catch Pokémon. However, Niantic planned a deliberate promotional strategy to create, build up, and continue the hype for the game. The promotion of the game started in 2014 as part of an April Fool’s joke. Niantic created a prototype version of the game teaser that used Google Maps to catch Pokémon and released it on YouTube. This got above 18 million views..


According to media sources, Pokémon Go raked in US$200 million in revenue in the first month of its release. The game tasted phenomenal success wherever it was released. Nintendo shares ended on July 19, 2016, up 14.4% at 31,770 JPY, taking its gains to more than 100% since the take-off of the game on July 6, 2016 (Refer to Exhibit V). The shares of Nintendo rose another 14% on July 19, 2016, taking the company’s market capitalization to 4.5 trillion JPY (US$42.5 billion) in just seven sessions since Pokémon Go was launched in the US. Takashi Oba, senior strategist at Okasan Securities , said, “I’ve never seen the trend of such a big company’s shares changing so quickly in such a short period of time.” ..


Businesses were using Pokémon GO as a marketing tool in a bid to get benefits out of association with the game. Some businesses which relied on walking customers were using the game to attract walkers. The game allowed businesses to get an advantage by spending less than US$200 to set up Lure Modules which attracted Pokémon to the PokéStop, drawing hundreds of players desperate to collect Pokémon with their smartphones in hand..


Despite its phenomenal success, Pokémon Go came under criticism for different reasons. The foremost criticism originated from its unstable software which was prone to hanging, leading to the user’s mobile phone crashing and making it necessary for players to log in several times. ..



Pokémon Go brought many people who used to stay at home playing video games, out of their homes and helped them meet new people and go to new places. There were concerns that these encounters might not be safe as some people could misbehave with others. Niantic had the challenge of ensuring the safety of the players. ..



Niantic had been working on fixing the issues with Pokémon Go, but fans were demanding more features. In an update on August 8, 2016, Niantic fixed an issue that was preventing players from getting bonus XP for ‘nice,’ ‘great’ and ‘excellent’ throws. Niantic also added a new warning message that popped up when users played Pokémon Go in a vehicle. The message warned the player not to play Pokémon Go while driving. On August 9, 2016, Niantic introduced a new nearby feature in its update where the nearby tracker showed nearby Pokémon in front of a PokéStop. ..


Exhibit I:Worldwide Digital Games Market as on December 2015
Exhibit II: The Generations of Pokémon Franchise
Exhibit III: Number of Days to Lose a Pound of Weight by Playing Pokémon Go
Exhibit IV: Nintendo Stock Value for July 2016
Exhibit V: Pokémon Go First Month Cumulative Revenue Compared to Clash Royale and Candy Crush Soda Saga
Exhibit VI: Peak Daily Active Users of Games in US (millions)
Exhibit VII: Time Spent by Android Users on Apps as of July 8 (Minutes per Day)