Pokémon Go – Hate it or embrace it?

  • Game has mastered key elements of workplace management - Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose
  • Provides proof that quality of mobile networks allows for interactive user experience

IT WAS September when I was suddenly faced with the dreaded question from my 14-year old that every parent back then had vainly hoped never to hear.

“Dad, can I download Pokémon Go?”

An image flashed before my eyes of Pokémon Go obsessed fans getting run over by speeding cars while crossing the road in a blind rush to capture Pikachu on the opposite walkway. Don’t we all carry that mental picture when someone mentions the “PG” acronym?

Then reality and common sense prevailed, so I reluctantly said, “Okay you can download it, but only if you promise that it does not become your only short-term focus in life.”

Typical speedy automated response from the kid, without a single second of consideration, “Of course not. Thanks, Dad.”

So how did Pokémon even get started?

What does the mobile version imply?

Since it is so attractive and all-consuming to many, are there any redeeming lessons to be learnt from this global obsession? And granted that while the media obsession with the game seems to have died down, it is still widely played.

The origin of Pokémon

Being a total ignoramus about Pokémon (okay, I admitted it, but how many would dare to do that and appear uncool?), I immediately turned to my Britannica Modernus, i.e. Google, and did some quick research.

So Pokémon originated from Satoshi Tajiri’s, the creator, fondness of bugs and tadpoles when he was a little kid.

Wow! Imagine that!

With perseverance, commitment and a never-say-die attitude, a kid’s childhood hobby can be turned into a billion-dollar industry! Sure, there was also a huge dollop of good fortune thrown in but that really counts for naught if Satoshi-san had given up when times were tough. And how many of you knew that the first version launched in 1996?

And here’s a little trivia. The creator named the game’s main hero after himself … that is way more awesome than having a flower named after one’s self, right?

The current mobile craze

Fast forward 20 years and the latest version of Pokémon Go, released 6th July 2016, took the mobile world by storm. Todd Weiss of eWeek reported that within five days of its release, the game app was downloaded to over 5% of all Android phones in the USA, and just as important, the app engaged its average user for over 40 minutes daily.

To my mind, this runaway success, that grew from strength to strength in the second half of 2016, reflects three key trends.

First, it shows the high traction and loyalty that the wide base of Pokémon Go fans have for their favourite pastime in all its various forms (Nintendo Game Boy, anime, manga, trading cards, magazines, merchandise and finally the mobile madness).

Second, the success provides indisputable proof that the mobile network is finally there, in developed and many developing nations, for providing enough bandwidth that allows for an interactive user experience that fans enjoy.

Lastly, this steep acceleration (of download rates) testifies that there is a significant base of smart phone users who are craving to do more with their latest toys. So bring it on, mobile developers as there is money to be made.

Any lessons for the dour businessman beset by a troubled global economy?

So great – some people (like Satoshi-san) have all the luck and global trends are fabulous, but does it all mean zilch to the average entrepreneur, whose sales in a totally unrelated industry have dipped by over one third in the past year? It was around that time my daughter got into the Pokémon Go craze, that a good friend – who is into clothing retail and budget hotels – lamented that his takings have been the worst ever since his family started the businesses decades ago. He declared loudly that he does not give a hoot about Pokémon Go.

Okay, maybe part of his morose and cranky attitude was due to his misguided hope that Malaysia would at least win one Olympic gold from three badminton finals.  We all felt depressed with that outcome, right?

But I shared with him the astute observations by Leong Chee Tung, co-founder and CEO of EngageRocket.co of Singapore, where Leong wrote that Pokémon Go delivers three lessons for all businesses in the arena of employee engagement.

In his article, Leong insists that “Pokémon Go has mastered three essential elements of workplace management and many companies struggle to implement even one.”

These elements come from Daniel Pink’s motivation trifecta of Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

Next page: Pikachu's three key workplace lessons


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