Pokemon Go: A good model to follow in gamification

It’s the huge fad of the past weeks. Even though it’s a game and not a gamification process, we can find in Pokemon Go many mechanics that “gamifiers” should take inspiration from!


Ok, we’re going to assume that, in the past month, you went on the Internet, watched TV or listened to the radio at least once. Ergo, that you’ve heard about Pokemon Go. If not, please click on this link.

We are not going to repeat how much this game has invaded our lives and our Facebook feeds, breaking many records in the game industry. Neither will we talk about the thousands of controversies and miscellaneous news items it has generated.

According to this article, Pokemon Go is actually a game. Hence, it is not gamification. While the author accepts the term “exergame” (a game that makes us do exercise), it’s far from being what the players seek in it. Proof: one of the first tricks that they developed was how to hatch pokemon eggs without walking.

Image shared 1,265 times on your FB wall the week the game was released.


The goal of the game is not to work out. Neither is it to visit landmarks in your city. That is just a little bonus that made the game even more popular.

And which parent wouldn’t be happy to see their kids deciding themselves to “go play outside, it’s sunny, shame to stay in all day!

Whatever, let’s talk about gamification!


Why is Pokemon Go good gamification?

But Rémy, you just spent 4 paragraphs telling us that Pokemon Go was a game, and thus couldn’t be gamification”, I hear you say in front of your screen.

Well, you are right. Gamification is adapting game mechanics to stuff that is not games.

First of all, it’s Rémi with an “i”, I would say. And secondly, why not explore the mechanisms in that game that could be applied in gamification in order to better understand – and take advantage of – its success?

Let’s call it a tie!


It targets every type of player

Once again, we are going to use Bartle’s player types, that have become a bit simplistic over time but can still be applied to newer frameworks.

The Explorers get out of their rooms, explore a world that some of them didn’t know: the real world!

The Killers face each other in gyms.

The Achievers follow the game’s motto: “Gotta catch’em all!”.

The Socializers meet other players live and gather in public spaces, as many news reports have shown.




If “Cosplayers” was a player type, even they would find their groove.


Some examples of mechanics

According to Yu-Kai Chou’s Octalysis, Pokemon Go uses a lot of “Core Drives” he describes in his framework (for which you’ll find a definition here). Here are some of them:

Epic meaning and calling: being a Pokemon trainer in real life was (or still is) a dream for many kids. And it now comes true!

Development and accomplishment: having to go out to find little creatures, pokestops or gyms. Becoming master of that gym. Getting the “Collector” or “Breeder” badges.

Empowerment of feedback and creativity: which Pokemon to make evolve, when to use an incubator, which one to trade (available soon), how to use them in a battle…

Ownership and possession: create your avatar. Defend your gym against other factions. And most of all: “Gotta catch’em all!”

Social influence and relatedness : players tend to gather in the same places, close to pokestops or around a lure. Some of them explore an area or take over a gym in groups.

Impatience and scarcity : you want a rare Pokemon, or the most powerful one. You always need more pokeballs. You have to walk this last mile to hatch your egg.

Unpredictability and curiosity : explore the surrounding area to find a pokestop or any Pokemon that is not a Pidgey. Hatch your eggs without knowing what’s inside.

Loss and avoidance : after spending so many hours and walking so many miles to collect 99 different Pokemons, you won’t stop playing, will you? And to stop just a week, so your friends progress faster than you, or lose a gym? Never!

Nothing’s better than hiking in the mountains to trade Pokemons in a quiet environment.


And those mechanics, that make Pokemon Go a very complete game, are adaptable in any gamification process: scarcity of some Pokemons, for example, makes users always play longer and walk further. This principle can easily be applied by making some rewards more difficult to attain to engage more and more of your users or clients.

And this game, just like every gamified experience should be, is very simple! A friend of mine, new mom, in her thirties, who has never been a Pokemon fan, got hooked: “It’s fun to be able to play while walking. They are cute, all those little Pokemons. And it’s really simple. I don’t really care about the battles, it’s above all to catch them that I play.” Cute animals, a collection to complete, and easy gameplay. There it is, Pokemon Go is not only a success because of the nostalgia of kids from the 1990’s or 2000’s, but thanks to a well elaborated game design!


And some already ride that wave

A shop in Paris offered a free “trainer’s kit” containing cereal bars, a drink, bandages… A very efficient lure to attract players/customers.


Gamification is using game mechanics to induce a certain behaviour. With Pokemon Go, some are a step ahead: they use directly the game itself!

There are many examples of cafés, pubs or shops owners who put some lures in their area. Those lures increase the chance to see a Pokemon appear. The players gather there, probably not realizing that they are the prey being lured… And enter the pub to get a cool beer.


This game may last in time, or not. But it has already left a trace in the history of gaming. And has at the same time accomplished one of the main goals of gamification: an unprecedented virality!


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