Love it or hate it, people young and old are going nuts for a bit of Pokemon Go. On the face of it, it all seems rather pointless - you walk around to find characters and then flick them a bit. But there is much, much more to it than this and it's heralding a new era of games that will completely change how people think of gaming.
Since the release of Pokemon Go, the value of Nintendo has risen by over $7bn as people have been rushing to buy shares in the company. Why? Well, investors in general are not stupid people, they're responsible for vast sums of money and amongst other things, our pensions, so nothing too important. In simple terms, they're gamblers who have unlimited amounts of someone else's cash to waste. Sounds good to me.
So why have investors been betting on Nintendo, or at least showing strong support for a new concept? The reason is because this is the first successful example of mass adoption of Augmented Reality and the potential market is absolutely massive - big emerging markets are like fairy dust, Christmas, rainbow riding unicorns and pots of gold at the end of very large rainbows to investors because they can bet low and make absurd profits when it all goes mental.
Augmented Reality is in it's total infancy at the moment and will either surpass or at the very least compliment the very best virtual reality. The fact is that augmented reality is more accessible than VR, has a much wider range of opportunity than VR and solves all the problems of VR without trying - you don't need to stay in your house/one location, you're not going to break your nose running in to a wall or smash your house up because you can't see it and it won't make you redecorate the place with vomit because of motion sickness.
Then there's the potential, not just creative but social also. People are already getting really excited that technology may actually hold a solution for the one big problem it has helped to create - a distinct lack of movement. Now people are running around town, chasing imaginary characters (a wonderful image of a crazy society if ever there was one) in an effort to "collect them all" which, whether you like the game or not, really has done more to get people moving than the sales of millions of Wii Fit boards that now gather dust under millions of TV stands ever did.
The social aspect is huge as well, you're now very likely to bump in to a fellow Pokemon player who is after the same things as you, the potential for unintended meetings are really high, which means social connections that would otherwise never have happened, now will. On top of that the idea that you can compete with rival teams to "take over" an entire town or region is utterly brilliant. Often the most successful ideas are the most simple.
Think about politics - parties spend millions trying to motivate people to get out of their houses and vote, to "take over" a town or city in the hope of a candidate becoming elected. The gamification of this idea has had drastically more success than political investment ever has or probably could and the potential to apply this simple competitive element to other areas is huge.
Finally, there's the very idea that you can simply take anywhere, any space, any area and turn it into the most awesome game you ever played. With advances in motion sensing and wearable computing it is not difficult to imagine playing a future version of Doom or similar where you literally walk in to an empty building complex, put on your AR glasses and suddenly you're instantly transported into an amazing game world where you're not a passive participant but actively in the game - your physical movements all translated in to the game. The level of involvement, emotion, stress and so on will be amplified to a level never seen before. All those empty, derelict buildings will suddenly gain a value they never had as the latest level in a game.
If you take it to the extreme you could find teams of people travelling all over the world to play in games in all kinds of countries (as you would now in Uncharted and other games for example, as you follow clues to an eventual goal). It has the ability to create an entirely new form of travel agent, one who will create your very own personal, world wide adventure of a lifetime.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is why a $7bn increase in company value is just the beginning. Done right, this has the ability to make companies like Apple suddenly look like a corner shop.
Computing suddenly got very, very exciting again.
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