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Taking stock: watching the game watchers watching Pokémon Go

You may not have noticed people glued to their smartphones. People wandering around in the streets playing Pokémon Go.  Did I mention that there are at least 21 million people who have downloaded the app since July 11? Uh, make that 30 million, uh, make that... That those people are spending more time on this than Twitter or Facebook, apparently consuming less data than either? Crashing into police cars and walking off cliffs – and even killed. A good percentage (40%) are between 25-34 -- but 42,000 in that snapshot are over the age of 45. Apparently state department briefings are no match for the game. Consider the NY Times photo of throngs on Market Street a few days ago or today’s Friday night download by 10 million in Japan!

This is a serious business that just looks like a game. Nintendo’s market cap has already passed Sony’s.  Apple alone has been projected to take in $3 billion from downloads/in-app purchases – McDonald’s is the first to partner, beginning in Japan, but surely not the last, as next week’s business news will illuminate. So how are folks making money? There are in-app purchases (Apple gets 30% of the revenue of those on iPhones), but already there are mall shoppers and related clothes, including men’s fashions, not to mention hats. Amazon has accessories and guides.  And because the game is a battery-draining hog, it has no doubt boosted the market for portable battery packs.

When was the last time a cultural wave swept in that quickly?  Already exceeding the popularity of Candy Crush (only 20 million downloads) – which peaked and then dropped, Pokémon requires the user to go outside, making it unique in the couch potato gaming history – previously only the device was ‘mobile.’  Remember Gary Dahl and the Pet Rock?  In the 70’s the mobile phone was primitive -- today, there would have been a pet rock app. You do have to love that Mr. Dahl was also the author of the book ‘Advertising for Dummies.’

What does it mean -- does our reality need to be augmented? CMOs should download and try it, or maybe try making a buck from a related offer – who knows if your company could make a buck off it? (See above, that’s already happened). Somewhat more insightful, others are trying to make sense of the game’s Augmented Reality -- and more analysts will be assessing the business opportunities yet to be described. Furthermore, considering the world’s actual reality these days, the game’s players could be forgiven for a bit of escapism into a virtual world outside their couch, TV news and Twitter.