In the last few weeks, Pokémon Go swept the entire globe and became a mobile game sensation. For many, the success of the app may seem to be out of nowhere. But as analysts have pointed out, the Pokemon phenomenon was only made possible as a result of a series of stepping stones. This success story may tell us bigger lessons about the importance of constant development and consumer appeal.
Although it only took a matter of a week for Pokémon Go to go viral, the creator, John Hanke, has been toying with the idea of a location-based app for twenty years. It has been a work in progress since 1996 whenhe co-created a multiplayer online game called ‘Meridian 59’. This program was only the beginning in his bigger plan. He sold off his game app and went to pursue his passion for 3D mapping of the world.
This entailed launching ‘Keyhold’ which used aerial photography to create the first online GPS-linked 3D aerial map of the world in 2000. Guess where this technology ended up? Google!
Google bought Keyhole in 2004 and this was what enabled Google Earth to happen. John continued to work with Google to develop Google Maps and Google Street View. But his focus was in combining the GPS technology with gaming. Then after launching Niantic Labs, he and his coworkers created a game layer on maps and Pokémon Go was born. What this case shows is that what some may perceive as an ‘overnight success’ is a culmination of years in preparation. Technology is develops, evolves and is finally applied to create the product. For John and his team the technology was applied to a consistently and hugely popular cartoon franchise, Pokémon.
Another interesting aspect of the popularity of Pokémon Go is its social aspect. In fact, the game app is far from perfect and many users have complained about its user unfriendliness and other imperfections in the usability of the app. However, this also presented an opportunity as people are starting to engage with other users to exchange tips. What makes the game unique is that it allows the users to see Pokémon in real life in the form of augmented reality and interact with people in the process. This parallels with some of the steps that Zapya is and will be taking.
Zapya has been focused on the field of file sharing and it is deemed the fastest cross-platform file sharing tool available. It has gained over 1 million followers in social media and over 350 million people have used the application. However, true influence is not just about numbers. It is about people forming high-quality networks and engaging with the app’s contents.Zapya is thus taking a new step into merging a social aspect with the app’s unique feature. It will not just allow people to share files between themselves but it will become an important source of contents and facilitate social interactions and networks between the users. Zapya also realizes that they key is in gamification.
Many users around the world may find Zapya and other educational apps useful. However, in many cases, the number of active users can remain relatively low compared to the usefulness of the app. Similar things apply to financial education apps — people simply do not spend a lot of time using it. This dilemma can be posed as the candy v. medicine problem. Users need to have sufficient incentive to use the app and they are psychologically motivated by the fun factor rather than purely on the utility of a given app. One of the reasons Pokémon Go was so popular was because there was the fun aspect to it. Taking photos of your friends in real places with Pikachu is entertaining.
Of course, basing the entire product’s attraction on the fun factor can be risky and people may find it less fun after a short period of time and the hype may die down. Nonetheless, the initial fun factor can help useful apps get the attention they deserve. That is the reason why Zapya has been targeting certain key regional markets and focused on sharing entertaining contents to increase the app’s appeal. For instance, Zapya’s launch of GroupShare in India, there were concentrated efforts to gather lots of interesting contents especially those that would engage people in the region.
Once people are willing to find out more, they can discover the usefulness of the app and be inclined to use the app more often. Hence, overnight success has more layers than it looks and apps must constantly think about creating a balance between the fun factor and updating its technology to suit the users’ needs.