Augmented Reality Network Effects?
My friend Jason’s enthusiasm gets me no matter what he’s describing and last night it got me hooked on Pokemon Go. Three quick observations from a relatively late adopter (a crazy statement in and of itself).
Viral Growth — Offline Network Effects:
Rising to 25 million daily active users in its first three weeks in the U.S., the game is the most successful mobile product launch ever. Pure organic viral growth has Pokemon Go breaking app store and OS usage records at the same time. Most remarkable is that the current version of Pokemon Go does not have inherent network effects. That is contrarian compared to the industry-leading consumer products, including games. Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram, Draw Something, Farmville, and Words With Friends all benefited from network effects, where new users drove retention. Facebook’s rise is the textbook definition of the same effect. We are in an era where meteoric consumer product growth has often relied on users finding their real-life social networks in-app to drive repeat engagement. Empirically speaking, you play Pokemon Go without any user-to-user interaction. You play the game to find more Pokemon and advance your experience levels; both processes that are born out of and achieved through a virtual world in which you exist largely alone.
Of course, Nintendo can deploy gaming and social features that could achieve a traditional network effect very quickly. It's not hard to imagine what these are. The lures that users can leave to attract Pokemon are an early indication. In-game tips, trading, commerce, battles, and communication — all hallmarks of successful MORPGs — can build network effect moats when given to such a large early user base. I’d like to posit though that there is something else at play with Pokemon Go today that goes beyond buzz. The network effect has already emerged, but it has been achieved offline. Users are communicating, tips are given to one another, real life friends and couples are engaging the game together, commerce is already in place. Its just all happening in the real world. Listen to the conversations you overhear about Pokemon Go, they aren’t all just about the hype. Users are helping each other, recommending what to do, comparing their collections and their avatar designs. Jason literally walked around with me after dinner last night and we played together while he gave me tips. He’s the first person I messaged this morning when I caught a wild Tauros on the train. A product of our first augmented reality network, the social in the Pokemon Go network effect is experienced on the real world side. And its honestly more powerful then if tips and conversation were in-app from the start.
Device Takeover — Single Use:
The Pokemon user interface dominates your device. Certain push notifications can interrupt, but it is by and large a dedicated experience. You have to keep it open in order to keep playing and, even from a pocket, it will run and buzz if there’s something to do nearby. We are clearly demonstrating a desire for this type of UX/UI. Content consumption on Snapchat underscores the same trend. Products that fill up the screen, are easily engaged, and consistently satisfying are winning our attention. We want immersive experiences and may readily sacrifice choice — which app to open, where to read the news — for them.
Nintendo should buy Foursquare: