The minute Pokémon GO was released, the world went absolutely insane. For some, it was a cool AR app they could play while they're bored and walking somewhere. For most, it's something they've wanted since the 90s. It's pretty much my childhood wish come true and I'm sure many could say the same. Despite the plethora of glitches and seemingly unending server issues, Pokémon GO is still bringing in users at an exponential rate. More than that, despite being a free app, it's making more money than any other app in the Apple Store right now which is a feat in and of itself.
So what's the secret sauce to the app's popularity? Besides being hotly anticipated, the one thing the app boasts is the fact that it brings random people together. I got to experience this first hand while I walked the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica with a friend from 11:00AM to 9:45PM. Yeah, an app tricked me into walking outside for ten hours straight. That's some high level mad sorcery right there. In my defense, people were dropping mad lures.
We were catching Pokémon left and right! My friend even managed to catch a Dragonite which I would have also caught had my game decided to not crash on me in the heat of battle, but that's neither here nor there. Whenever I looked up, I started to notice everyone else with their phones out walking around trying to catch them all. Yes, people have their phones out all the time, but it's easy to spot a fellow trainer out and about. For one, stopping abruptly and feverishly swiping at their phone is a dead giveaway. Also, everyone who saw each other playing the game always stopped to ask where the good spots were or at the very least give each other an approving and knowing nod, a nod that said "good luck out there."
It's one thing to read about spontaneous gathering of Pokemon nerds, but it's a whole other thing to experience it first hand. People were gathering in groups around PokéStops with lures attached to them and striking up conversations in between frantically trying to catch Pokemon. I've only experienced this type of socialization at conventions so it's a little surprising and absolutely heartening to see it happen out in the "real world" and with such an eclectic mix of people. My friend and I even managed to borrow charge cables from fellow trainers since I wasn't the best at preparing and only brought a single charging block with me and not an actual outlet charger.
That's another thing thing I probably should have expected, the increased foot traffic at certain businesses. The establishments that saw the most benefit from this phenomenon were restaurants and cafés near PokéStops. Places where people could post up, drop a lure, and catch Pokémon while taking a break from all the walking around. Places with plentiful charging stations like Starbucks more than likely saw the most foot traffic since the app eats through a cellphone battery quickly. Charging blocks and Starbucks became a necessity during my adventure in Santa Monica.
All in all, I would say that Pokémon GO is a rousing success for Nintendo. It's getting people up and about and helping forge friendships at the same time. Make new friends and catch some Pokémon along the way? Sounds like a good deal to me.