Pokémon Go has been filling the newsfeed of every social channel I have for the last week now. And with the news that it has more active daily users than Twitter and has added a whopping $7.5B in value to Nintendo’s share price, we are now dealing with a bonafide hit.

I admit to running around with my 5 year old at 7:30pm trying to catch a Snorlax – I’m hooked too (and I’m not a gamer). But what’s most interesting to me is the fact that Pokémon Go has well and truly put Augmented Reality gaming into the mainstream. As a digital marketer, that makes me incredibly excited.

I first saw Augmented Reality gaming over ten years ago. Like all new game platform firsts, the game was tennis. Activated by a QR Code on a piece of paper, you could play tennis against the computer or another Nokia N series phone. It was slow, buggy and delivered a horrible user experience.

Since that time, I’ve have seen a steady stream of AR game ideas for brands come across my desk. Monteith’s Meat Pack Hunt is arguably the most successful in NZ. Users were asked to shoot virtual game (deer, pigs etc) which lived in the user’s real world environment to win prizes. Essentially it was Pokémon Go, before Pokémon Go existed. While I don’t know the numbers, I played the game and enjoyed it. And it picked up a couple of minor awards.

The challenge I had with it then was that an AR mechanism was too early to be taken up by the mainstream in NZ, so scale was always going to be a challenge, especially for a craft beer like Monteith’s (but that’s another argument).

Early on in my career I learned some tough lessons about the mainstreaming of technology before major brands can get on board. Back when Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) was a thing, we created a WAP site for a major mainstream beer brand. While a number of our target market *could* access WAP, very few of them did. Done at relatively significant cost, the idea failed, however the TVC was a smash hit, so we lived to fight another day and called it ‘’experimentation’. But we never got to experiment with new technology for that brand again.

The learning from that experience still applies, however we’re in a very different environment now. We all need to do more for less, and all marketers have pressure to innovate and experiment (but not to fail). I believe the secret to not failing when using technology is to leverage something that is in the mainstream, but done in a new way.

I concede that this thinking is driven by being in a small market. In New Zealand, niches really are niche, and in small markets like ours we need mass/mainstream pickup to get the numbers to deliver an ROI. Pre-Pokémon Go, people in NZ who’d actively give brand sponsored AR gaming a go likely numbered in the low thousands – this has now changed.

We’ve already seen business opportunities come out of leveraging Pokémon Go, (https://luresquad.com/ Pokémon Go players are lured into stores to get rewards). Already we’re starting to think about how brands can get involved (sponsored Pokémon, branded ‘Gyms’, branded map environments), and we’re about to see a whole lot of Pokémon Go-esque games flood the market, brought to you by your favourite brand.

While the hype around Pokémon Go may very well be a fad, it’s official: augmented reality gaming is now in the mainstream. The floodgates are open, consumers are primed and ready for more. I’m excited.

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