In short, we’re living through Pokémon Go’s dog days. It’s not dead–in fact, far from it–but as with most big hits, the mainstream conversation has moved on.
Gartner’s venerable “Hype Cycle” offers useful context. Have a look at where AR sits in 2017–right at the bottom of the “trough of disillusionment.”
It’s also reflected in Google Trends, with global internet searches for Pokémon Go trending ever downwards since July 2016. It has even fallen below searches for other massively popular online games, including Minecraft and League of Legends:
Yes, indeed, the world’s attention has moved on as witnessed by another search topic comparison for the same period. Front and center: the ubiquitous iPhone, which is included as another significant moment in the global zeitgeist of hot talking points. At the time of this writing, the iPhone 8 and iPhone X were just announced. This chart alludes to what will be another spike in search terms, sales, and global iPhone hype:
For Pokémon Go, AR watchers, and marketers, in general, this is where things start to get interesting. Get set as the combination of Apple’s new iOSA11 and the new iPhones gives augmented reality a proper shot in the arm. New developer tools will help the world’s army of coders find creative, new ways of combining AR apps with payments, the Apple TV, and the artificial intelligence capabilities offered by Siri.
So what does that mean? Pokémon Go serves as a useful metaphor: We’re still heading towards a scenario where the real world and augmented, or digital, experiences are blended.
A report by Ericsson found 70% of early adopters expect virtual and augmented reality to “fundamentally change” everyday life across six domains: media, education, work, social interaction, travel, and retail.
“Media is already being transformed and consumers expect virtual screens to start replacing televisions and theatres in less than a year,” according to this commentary on the report.
Less than a year? That seems pretty quick, but the point can’t be overlooked. The message for marketers is that a long-term game is at play. Other games, services, and real-world scenarios will emerge that capture the world’s attention.
According to John Hanke, CEO of Niantic, Pokémon Go’s developer, AR will enhance what it means to be humans in the physical world:
“AR can transform the mundane into something more colorful and fun and can provide a useful nudge to go off and see new places and do new things. It can also enhance the everyday — walking through a complicated subway terminal (imagine a dotted line map leading the way), shopping (imagine a glance at an item showing you an image of you wearing the item with information about where it was made and its ecological impact), travel (picture heads-up translation and guides to history and art as you stroll through an historic site), and so much more.”
The key to success, he added, will be when we’re using devices that allow us to lift up our heads from a phone yet still have access to streams of online information.
Other research data seems to back his assertions. Investment in AR/VR companies was up an estimated 271% in 2016. Mobile VR head-mounted displays are forecast to account for about 75% of global VR display sales by that time. At the same time, the number of mobile VR users worldwide is forecast to grow to more than 130 million.
Meanwhile, mobile AR could become the primary driver of a $108 billion VR/AR market by 2021, with AR taking the lion’s share of $83 billion, and thr remainder going to $25 billion.
In the simplest of terms, you can’t miss the message. Not only are we spending more time on smartphones versus other screens, such as TVs and desktops, we’ll be augmenting that experience with (hopefully) better iterations of the early AR/VR glasses and heads-up displays that make the headlines.
How do we “monetise” or market to people in these environments? Facebook is about the best guide we’ve got because its rapid approach to innovation sets the tone for the way marketers engage with communities across social and online platforms.
The motto is “pay to play”: in-stream advertising, paid content, and custom experiences for brands connected to the real world. Want to make sure that people see the latest special at your restaurant as they walk past scanning for deals wearing their AR headsets? Depending on the platform, you can expect there will be a fee that scales from a passer-by who simply scans and moves on to someone who accepts your lunch special and walks inside.
That’s just one scenario. More will emerge.
Going back to our hype cycle, the key to understanding the future is that it’s always a long game. Pokémon Go is still blazing a trail for augmented reality up towards the slope of enlightenment, and the entrepreneurs and innovators will surely follow.
That’s a good thing from my point of view, because there’s only so many Pikachu you can catch before our micro-attention spans demand the next big thing.