That the game is sweeping the globe is no longer in question, but we wanted to find out if that’s because it’s a good game or because of the nostalgia and the cultural history of Pokémon. So we posed the question to three game designers or experts here in Brooklyn: Would this game still be popular if you weren’t catching Pokémon, but some other cartoon monster.
Here’s what they said:
Collin Cummings, founder of PlayWell
That’s a pretty good question with no definitive answer. I’d say the nostalgia and familiarity of the Pokémon franchise lends to it’s success in a major way. Ingress, the game Niantic put out before Pokémon GO (and what a lot of Pokémon’s tech is built on) was never really as big. Visually it was kind of a mess and conceptually didn’t connect with people. Our familiarity with Pokémon mechanics and IP (intellectual property) has driven our willingness to assimilate the technology that supports it. So, to your question, no, I don’t think the same game with a less iconic IP would be as popular, but now that Pokémon is such a thing, I’m certain people are well enough acquainted with the charm of AR games that they’ll give newer experiences a shot.
To the question of whether or not it’s a good game, I don’t know, it’s hard to tell because my phone keeps dying or crashing when I play it:). I guess it’s good enough to get me to keep trying.
Catt Small, cofounder of Brooklyn Gamery
From an objective perspective, I think it’s an okay game made great by the brand. The mechanics are alright for a mobile game – it’s the AR equivalent of geocaching (go to a location, find a thing, go to another location, find another thing). Pokémon battles don’t involve much thought as it’s mostly just tapping, although the elemental rules apply, which is cool.
Seeing as though Niantic worked on a similar, mildly popular game before this, I don’t think this game would be doing as well as it is if it didn’t include the Pokémon experience. People have wanted to catch these specific monsters IRL for over twenty years, and I don’t think it’d work if it was Yu-Gi-Oh, Digimon, or a new IP.
Matt Baca, director of video content at Equity Arcade
I think that the app utilizes interesting technology in a really neat way. It’s encouraged people to get outside and interact with people with a shared interest. In that respect, it’s a wonderfully innovative sensation. That said, the gameplay is lacking. For example PvP (player vs. player) battles and trading. I understand why they have not included it, as this experience is available in their core games. I’m sure that with updates and further development, the game will be more complete, but yes, as of now, there are a few things to be desired with the gameplay, and yet I can’t stop playing it.-30-