People running around staring at their smartphones, fully absorbed, has become a familiar sight in our daily lives. But people hunting funny little creatures in the urban jungle with their digital devices is a new phenomenon that could be observed around the globe. Pokémon GO is THE hype of the year 2016. 21 million active users daily made the augmented reality game the most successful online game in media history (so far). Within three days after its launch more people played Pokémon GO than twitter users exist globally. What is the secret of the game’s success?

In a student research project, we explored the motivations of light and heavy Pokémon GO users aged 16-25 years old in 24 in-depth interviews. The content analysis of the personal and skype conversations resulted in four personas, a framework that has initially been developed to provide software engineers with a vivid and clear profile of different user types. Many companies make use of personas in agile management processes and when designing their digital marketing strategy.

Pokémon GO is extremely successful because it triggers a set of basic human motivations in an innovative and seamless interaction with the players. The four player types differ regarding their motivational drivers and usage patterns:

  • Anna represents the socially motivated “follower”. She started playing Pokémon GO because all her friends prey on Pikachu & Co.. She experiences a sense of belonging to her peer group and a feeling of security because the game is associated with a lot of positive childhood memories which are revived when Anna tries to catch and train Pokémons digitally.
  • Alpha animal“ Leon uses Pokémon GO to fulfill his need for achievement and competition. Thus, he can be seen in the arena more often than other players. He likes to compete with others and test who is faster, stronger and better. As a consequence, he aims to catch powerful Pokémons predominantly even if this means that he has to play during odd times of the night when he can benefit from the best server capacities.
  • Anton is the relaxed „hunter-gatherer“ who is intrinsically motivated through the achievement of gathering itself. He acts out this basic evolutionary motif ingrained in our biological hardware facilitated by modern technology.
  • „Entertainment seeker“ Anna appreciates hunting for Pokémon to be an exciting and stimulating activity when having to kill time in her daily life. Social motivation is less important for her than curiosity, arousal and moments of entertainment when having to wait for the tube or bus. She will stop playing this game as soon as routine will kick in and it does not provide sufficient stimulation anymore.

Companies aiming for a placement of their products and services in the context of Pokémon GO should consider these personas when choosing their activities in order to “get the biggest bang for the buck”. Please get in touch with us if we can support you in designing your digital strategy for the next year.