Pokemon Go is huge right now. People across all age ranges, demographics, and geographies are getting involved and it’s hard to imagine this sort of adoption for any other game. What I find fascinating is that Pokemon Go was based on the same augmented reality mechanics as Ingress, another game developed by Niantic Labs. Ingress has a loyal following but pales in comparison against Pokemon Go when looking at the user numbers, despite Pokemon Go being less than 2 weeks old while Ingress has been around for almost 4 years.
The Pokemon brand has a huge following and it’s incredible what a strong brand can do in the modern world. With zero distribution costs and instant global reach an existing brand can grow faster than at any previous point. Now more than ever do brands matters. Modern technology has made it easier than ever to enter new markets and quickly launch apps but in this world of commoditization and heavy competition a strong brand can do wonders.
The companies best positioned to take advantage of this new world are the ones with strong intellectual property and brands that can leverage whatever innovation comes along. Right now it’s augmented reality but in the future it will be something else. The business will be adapting new innovations that allow companies to magnify and enhance their brands.
This model reminds me of the pharmaceutical industry. I started my professional career working for a pharmaceutical consulting company which gave me a crash course in how the industry works. One of the more interesting insights was that the biggest advantage large pharmaceutical companies have is their sales force rather than their R&D. This allows them to just acquire small biotech companies for their newly developed drugs and have their own sales force selling it. This approach makes sense - you find what you’re great at and focus on applying that as much as you can. This is what Nintendo is doing with Pokemon Go and every brand with global scale IP should be doing.