Is Pokémon GO here to stay?

Erik Duindam, Jul 21 2016

In many countries, Pokémon GO is already the most successful mobile game ever. Not only did it beat Candy Crush Saga in terms of largest number of daily active users, it has also beaten apps like Facebook and Snapchat on daily usage statistics. It is therefore the most successful app in the world right now.

Even in countries where the game hasn’t been officially launched yet, like in the Arab world, the hype is enormous. Millions of young people have been tech savvy enough to circumvent geographical security of the app stores by using foreign accounts or VPN connections. People just simply don’t want to wait for the official release.

Unfortunately, many reports of Pokémon players disobeying rules and causing difficult situations have come out of the Arab world this week. Top clerics in Saudi Arabia have even renewed a 16-year-old fatwa that bans the game entirely for being considered a form of gambling. Other countries, like Egypt, are strongly debating whether the game should be allowed or not.

No one knows if Niantic, the creator of Pokémon GO, will actually decide to release the game in countries that ban or oppose the game. However, for the popularity of the game, this doesn’t seem to matter. As long as people find ways to play it, people will probably keep playing it.

For those who don’t play the game yet, a lot of successful Pokémon GO-related fan apps have been published as well. Most of these apps contain chat, a map of pokémon or a guide on how to play the game. The first successful app was GoChat, a chat app for Pokémon GO players that reached a million users in five days. It was pulled out of the App Store last week, because it couldn’t handle its rapid growth. This shows how popular the Pokémon theme actually is.

Similarly, we saw an opportunity and launched GoSnaps last week, the Instagram and Snapchat for Pokémon GO. The app immediately grew to one million visitors in the first week. It’s created by Unboxd, the company that I’ve co-founded in the United Arab Emirates last year. Unboxd was incubated by Astrolabs, the Google for Entrepreneurs incubator in Dubai, and has moved to New York for expansion.

The analytics of GoSnaps show several interesting facts. Saudi Arabia represents the second largest user base in the app, after China, out of the 195 countries from which people have used the app. Users from Oman, the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia show the highest session durations and screens per session, with 52% more engagement than average. In simple terms, residents of these countries seem to be disproportionally interested and excited about the Pokémon theme.

It’s hard to tell why these metrics are so significantly different in the Arab world. We’ve seen similar numbers at Cloud Games, an HTML5 games publisher that started in the Middle East. Gamers from the MENA region seem to be highly engaged users, which makes the region an interesting market for app developers and game publishers.

Given the fact that Arab gamers are so highly engaged, it would be interesting to see how this would relate to Pokémon GO in the real world. Pokémon GO has added a whole new dimension to marketing and advertising worldwide. In countries where the game has been officially released, stores and restaurants are advertising by offering Pokémon perks to get Pokémon GO players inside. They’re continuously paying for ‘Lure modules’ to lure pokémon and customers into their stores. This way, pokémon players can catch more pokémon for 30 minutes, while stores and restaurants can make more money for 30 minutes. It’s something we’ve never seen before. It would be interesting to see how this would work out in a place like the Dubai Mall.

Whether it’s good or not, Pokémon GO has created something that affects people’s daily lives. Something people are crazy about. It has introduced a whole new genre of apps in a way no one ever imagined. It’s hard to believe that this will just fade away. The people have shown that the interest is there, now it’s up to the governments to decide if the game is here to stay. 


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