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Pokémon Go: An AR Lens into Our Inner Kid

dscout's study on who's behind this summer's phenomenon.

Words by Austin Tolentino

Thanks to Pokémon Go, people everywhere are learning to walk again. As millions of Pokémon trainers began their journeys, we wanted to catch their in-the-moment experiences with an eye toward the retail world.

Were players making their way to new places—new stores even—just to capture a Squirtle? Or were they going about their walks as they always do, and happening to capture a few Weedles along the way? Were retailers with Pokémon nearby becoming a magnet for traffic?

To find answers, we set out to capture the specific moments when 100 people were finding their Pokémon. We asked participants to use our real-time research app to submit screenshots of their Pokémon encounters. Each time they submitted a screenshot of their surroundings, they also answered a few questions about them.

In all, we collected over 500 moments for analysis. Next week, we'll be set to publish the results, giving you a glimpse into the Pokémon world through the AR lens, and some understanding of how people are interacting with it beyond the touchscreen.

But, we found such awesome stuff in the screener data—completed by more than 400 people, ages 13 to 63—that we wanted to share a little about what the Pokémon users themselves are like. First, a quick montage from their selfie videos:

When the first Pokémon video game was introduced in 1996, the Millennial generation made it into a phenomenon. Today, their progeny are at the center of phenom two, Pokémon Go.

Millenials, in fact, are the only cohort (as shown in the chart above) to widely cite all four of the primary reasons why people play the game: nostalgia, curiosity/FOMO, an activity that gets them fresh air, and the fact that their kids are playing it.

Even the B.P. (Before Pokémon) cohorts, however, felt nostalgic for the game simply because their children grew up with Pokémon.

More than half of people (51%) mentioned nostalgia:

“I've played Pokémon since I was a kid. I had all the cards. I STILL HAVE MY CARDS, and I'm a current gym leader by my house!”

"I will definitely be the very best. I've been a Pokémon fan since I was a kid. I'm 25 now. I mean this is my generation right now. I'm having a blast playing Pokémon. It makes me feel young again.”

After nostalgia came Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), or curiosity around the hype (28%):

“I wanted to know what all the fuss was about!”

“Sooo I started playing Pokémon because it was, like, the cool thing to do. And like everyone was doing it on Facebook.”

At the tail end, came a new excuse to get some fresh air (17%) and having kids who are into it (9%).

“What I love most about Pokémon Go is the chance that it gives me to go outside. I'm already out there walking, doing things all the time, so this just gives me an extra reason to want to go out and go to new places and find new things.”

“[My son and I] play's a way for us to bond. My son's going to be in the fifth grade soon, and we don't have much in common anymore. But we do with Pokémon Go, so my son and I play it together!"


For Millennials and post-millennials (like me), it doesn’t matter if we played the video game in the ‘90s or watched the kids’ TV show later. Pokémon Go is a revival of our own instinct to explore like a kid. Even for the parents who came of age before Pokémon, nostalgia is still a factor when they see people fixated on their smartphones, much like their own children were on Gameboys.

While not much has changed today, Pokémon Go adds just enough novelty to draw everyone, from Baby Boomers to Gen Z. The Pokémon world has simply moved from behind the glass screens and into the real world. We’re not solely interacting with a computer program on our sofas anymore; we’re walking out of our front doors, exploring our neighborhoods, and playing with each other.

In fact, nearly two-third of respondents reported walking was the best mode of transportation to the nearest Pokéstop or Gym. They cumulatively have walked 7,000 kilometers (4,350 miles!) while playing the game since it launched a couple of weeks ago. That’s the equivalent of traversing the Andes, the longest mountain range in the world.


After playgrounds and parks (26%), restaurants (19%) and retail stores (18%) are the most frequent Pokémon destinations, and 68% of players have made purchases at those places.

Nearly 6 in 10 people who walked, bicycled, or took public transport reported their purchases as unplanned, driven only by the fact that they happened to be out playing Pokémon Go.

As a game, Pokémon Go is just one small step for Pokémon trainers, but it's also one giant leap for kids, young and old.

We will “travel across the land ?, searching far and wide ?, each Pokémon to understand ?, the power that’s inside ?.

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