Since its release on July 6th, Pokemon Go has become more popular than anyone could have anticipated. Now, three weeks later, it seems like everywhere you go, you’re surrounded by people who are glued to their phones, completely immersed in the game’s augmented reality and thoroughly enjoying the process of capturing more Pokemon to add to their growing collections. As a society, we often rely too much on our mobile devices to provide us with meaningless entertainment – but luckily, Pokemon Go is anything but meaningless.
This is true for a number of different reasons. Most importantly, the Pokemon Go craze signifies the start of a mainstream push to incorporate gamification into everyday life that we’ve been anticipating for a long time here at Recurrence. With Pokemon Go, millions of people are finally seeing the tremendous benefits that come from making a game out of otherwise tedious activities, like completing chores, and how much easier it is to achieve goals if you’re having fun while you’re working towards them. When players are playing Pokemon Go, they are really killing three birds with one stone: they are playing a game that they enjoy, they’re engaging more with their environment and with other players, and, as a happy side effect, they are also improving their health and fitness by walking around for hours on end looking for Pokemon.
This last point is of particular note, as companies that sell smart exercise devices, like Fitbit and Jawbone, are reporting a dramatic increase in the number of total steps taken by the population since Pokemon Go was released. We recently read a fascinating article in the Washington Post about the “population-level surge” in overall exercise that these apps have reported seeing since Pokemon Go launched. The founders of one app, Cardiogram, a heart-rate tracking device for the Apple Watch, analyzed exercise data collected from 35,000 of their users on the weekend after the game was released. They say that exercise increased “across the board” that weekend, stating that, “on the day of the launch, about 45 percent of users were exercising 30 or more minutes [per day]. Two days later, on a Saturday, that number rose to 50 percent. The next day, it hit 53 percent.” Although Cardiogram was unable to establish which of its users were playing Pokemon Go that weekend, the fact that this marked uptick in exercise occurred in conjunction with the game’s release suggests that there is a strong correlation between the two events. This correlation is further bolstered by the fact that many other apps in the fitness space have released their own studies, all of which back Cardiogram’s theory up. This is especially true for one company, Jawbone, whose UP fitness tracker comes with a membership to a robust online user community. Thanks to the existence of this online community, Jawbone was able to collect and analyze data within that same time frame on the exercise habits me of only those users who have mentioned Pokemon Go in their messages online. Jawbone’s results showed that the Jawbone UP users who’d mentioned Pokemon Go in the online forum had walked, on average, a whopping 62.5 percent more than usual the weekend after the game’s release!
This exciting information only confirms what we at Recurrence have known for a long time: that gamification is not only engaging, but will also be a very powerful tool for positively motivating behaviors in the future.