Pokémon Go: A Timely #Throwback

July 14, 2016

Marketing Nostalgia With Pokémon Go

When I arrived to Wash Park to go for a run yesterday, something stuck out to me. The people. Yeah, sure there were the usual walkers, runners, and groups playing volleyball. But something was different. In the open field that I could immediately see, there were 30, no, 40+ people walking around with their phones in their hands, looking down at their screens. I had apparently just parked next to a Poke Stop, and they were all playing Pokémon Go. Later that same evening way out in suburbia Parker, CO, there were groups of people, individuals, couples, walking around playing the same game. And I know what they are doing, because I was playing, too.

What is Pokémon Go?

Pokémon Go is the latest app to take the world by storm. As of July 11, the app already has an estimated 7.5 million downloads, and is making an estimated $1.6 million in daily revenue. Think about that. This is a game that was first released for Gameboy February 1996 and, 20 years later, is making someone very, very rich.

The game makers took the once ever-popular game and transformed the Pokémon world into the real world. The game uses your GPS location, and players must physically walk around their environment/neighborhoods to search and collect Pokémon. And then, of course, there are Poke Stops (where a player can stop to collect supplies), and Gyms (where players can battle other players).

The amount of potential blog content about Pokémon Go is endless, and I’ve already read a number of articles about the Pokémon Go craze. But in this blog post, I wanted to look at the Throwback and nostalgia of Pokémon Go.

How did they pull off such a successful comeback?

In 1996, the game’s target audience was children ranging from 5 to 15 years old. The people playing Pokémon Go today are adults 25 to 35 years old. All the people you see at the parks, and on their phones, are adults! And sure, younger kids are jumping in on the fun, too, but the idea that the game was able to revive their same audience, all these years later is what’s so impressive. To keep the authenticity of the game intact, but to change the way it is played, and the device it is played on, is no easy task.

The timing of the release of the app was no mistake either. Released in the heart of summer, when players have long warm days to venture outside. This game has been long hyped and talked about. But it wasn’t about to be released in January when no one wants to go outside.

Is this all a good thing?

Now if you are anything like my wife, you might be a bit of a hater on the fact that we now have 7.5 million people in the world with yet another excuse to be in front of a screen all the time. But honestly, I think of this as only a positive. This game just took 7.5 million+ people that would normally be playing games in the darkness of their basement, and—say what?—GOT THEM OUTSIDE! Walking around, talking to other “trainers”, and moving.

A friend of mine, who I will not name, had recently gotten a Fitbit from his wife and averaged maybe 1,500 steps a day, which if you track your steps, you know is hardly anything. However, the day the game released, Boom! 14,000 steps just like that.

And who said playing video games is bad for your health? Maybe Pokémon Go’s next business endeavor will be Poke Sun Screen to protect all these video game junkies from that fiery ball in the sky the rest of humanity calls the sun.

Why is throwback so intriguing to modern culture?

Pokémon Go is certainly not the first to “bring something back from the dead.” The NFL has each team wear its Throwback uniforms maybe once each season. The band 98 Degrees is back together and touring. Movies like Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and countless more childhood films are re-created each year. And Lord knows you can’t make it through a single Thursday on social media without the seeing #ThrowbackThursday plastered everywhere.

So what is the millennial generation’s obsession with the blast from the past? And how much time actually needs to pass to make something cool again? Pokémon re-launched 20 years later. What is the magic number to be considered retro and cool, and not just a has-been brand being tired and trying too hard to stay relevant? How can a company embrace our society’s intrigue with the past?

These are questions we can’t answer yet, but they’re certainly intriguing. As more 1990s nostalgia creeps back into everyday life, we can’t help but see the opportunity in the throwback.

Steven Busch
Production Artist

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