Tsunekazu Ishihara Reflects On Pokémon GO’s Phenomenal Year


In a year that will be remembered for Brexit, Donald Trump being elected President of the United States, and the tragic loss of many celebrities, Pokémon GO instantly became a shining beacon of positivity.

The Pokémon Company president Tsunekazu Ishihara was given the chance to reflect on the location-based game’s international success in an interview with Nikkei Asian Review, where he outlined four reasons behind the success.

While admitting that Pokémon GO was a product of chance, the first reason he gave was how it had been able to attract multiple generations. With the Pokémon brand now 20 years young, Niantic’s app had been able to attract those that had once purchased the games for their children as well as those that had played it when they were younger.

That excitement had rapidly spread thanks to social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, which Ishihara believes played a key role in how it became popular so quickly worldwide.

“It took two years for Pokémon to boom worldwide 18 years ago, but Pokémon GO spread in a week,” he explained. Ishihara referred to the phenomenon as a “Pokédemic,” in likening it to a pandemic.

The third reason is unicorns, which are startups valued at $1 billion or more. Niantic is one such company having been spun off from Google, and Ishihara feels that these have a global mentality and management philosophy.

Even with the unprecedented demand that Pokémon GO received soon after launch when the player base was 50 times larger than had been expected, Niantic’s engineers worked relentlessly day and night to resolve the situation swiftly.

Ishihara was amazed by Niantic’s technical prowess and strong mind, adding: “It’s like fixing the engine of an airplane while flying.”

The last reason is technological advancements. With smartphones now a prominent part of our daily lives, location-based services have become increasingly normal whether that be Google Maps, Uber, or Deliveroo. That move from search businesses to location-based business was the last ingredient to success, thanks to advancements in the accuracy of the Global Positioning System (GPS). Without that, Pokémon GO likely wouldn’t have happened at all.

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