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Why Pokémon Go captured our imagination — and huge market share

By Llraz Margalit as written on techcrunch.com
When a franchise that essentially died more than a decade ago comes back to life with such fervor, we need to ask ourselves how and why that happened. And if you’re able to stop playing Pokémon Go long enough to read this article, you’ll find the phenomenon is deeply rooted in evolutionary psychology.
Matthew Lynley recently explained the brilliant ploys used by the creators of Pokémon Go to promote engagement, retention and virality. As a web psychologist, I am naturally inclined to dive deep into the aspects of human behavior that make us prone to embrace the game.
From an evolutionary standpoint, our brains operate much better in a natural environment that’s rooted deeply in our mind, compared to a setting based in virtual reality. Our behavior is governed by two parallel processes: The conscious process that revolves around our immediate tasks (in this case, winning Pokémon Go) and the unconscious process that is responsible for ensuring that there are no threats or sudden changes in our environment.
When playing virtual reality games, the unconscious computation in our brains is forced to work much harder, because it’s not familiar with this strange virtual reality environment. In contrast, playing Pokémon Go involves our actual environment, with which our mind is far more familiar; thus, playing within that setting delivers a comforting feeling of cognitive fluency — a mental shortcut that signals familiarity in a treacherous world.
The idea behind cognitive fluency might seem obvious — people prefer things that are easy to think about. The experience of the real world is psychologically easier to process than that of the VR world of other games. Fluency guides our thinking in situations where we have no idea that it’s at work, and it affects us in any situation where we need to process information.

Pokémon Go scratches some basic psychological itches.

This sense of familiarity has a strong influence over what types of things people find attractive and enjoyable. Playing games in a familiar setting is much more enjoyable, and familiarity has played a strong role in human survival. In prehistoric times, if something (or someone) was familiar, it meant that you had already interacted with it, so it was probably not going to kill you.
Pokémon Go scratches some basic psychological itches. First, the game itself is simple to understand and easy to play, for children and adults alike. Each time a level advances, the challenge is revived and thus the crave is renewed and the desire to continue receiving those fresh doses of gratification causes us to continue playing.
One of the rewarding building blocks of the game is the unexpected gratification of finding the monsters as we walk. We don’t know when to expect them; they can appear at any time or place. Our attraction to this kind of action is attributed to a neurotransmitter called dopamine, a chemical found in our brain.
Scientists initially associated dopamine with feelings of enjoyment (a high level of dopamine being visible during activities such as eating chocolate, having sex and hearing favorite music), but research in the past decade has indicated that dopamine has additional functions besides activating gratification and pleasure. This molecule helps us in detecting changes in the environment.
The system centers around expectations. We can expect high levels of dopamine when we encounter unexpected rewards (three or four times as excited, as measured by the strength of the dopaminergic firing). In other words, the reward is more pleasurable the more surprising it is.
When we receive unexpected cash on a randomized basis, it forces us more strongly into obsessively repeating our action than cash on a predictable basis would. This tendency was best illustrated by B.F. Skinner, a pioneer of behavioral psychology, in the 1950s. When his lab rats received an unexpected reward from pushing a pedal, they would continue pushing it even after the reward stopped arriving. This element of surprise helps explain why people just can’t get enough of Pokémon Go.
Additional bursts of pleasure also come from the nostalgia this game evokes. Being outside chasing monsters activates old and enjoyable memories, providing us with a priceless opportunity to relive a piece of our childhood again, and bring our childhood experiences to life. It activates memories from a simpler time in which we were out in the streets playing social games like tag or hide-and-seek.

Pokémon Go players feel as if they are taking part in an actual activity with other people.

Those games we used to play involved human partners, or at least involved manipulating real objects in real space (like throwing a ball). Pokémon Go players feel as if they are taking part in an actual activity with other people, rather than a remote observer behind a screen. Throwing the ball at a Pokémon brings up exciting memories that were closed in a box that belongs to the past. These memories have a positive influence on our well-being as we get a secret key to a magical period.
In addition, playing Pokémon Go can fulfill an everlasting fantasy. Walking through the streets fighting monsters that pop up unexpectedly out of nowhere can easily drive our imagination to assume the masterful role of superhero, or warrior, fulfilling a fantasy and giving our senses and emotions an other-worldly experience. Such games boost adrenaline levels, and they awaken strong feelings of power — as well as frustration, gratification and enjoyment.
A central part of the gratification Pokémon Go players experience is akin to the old-fashioned games we used to play, where people would go outside and interact more socially. Many studies have illustrated the mood-boosting effect of physical activity, and social ties are equally important for mental health. Some research suggests that even shallow conversation with strangers boosts well-being.
However, Dr. David Sack recently cautioned in Psychology Today about the fine line between behavior and addiction, questioning whether Pokémon Go will drive up the percentages of internet addiction or pathological gaming.
He quotes a DSM-5 fact sheet studying gamers: “When these individuals are engrossed in Internet games, certain pathways in their brains are triggered in the same direct and intense way that a drug addict’s brain is affected by a particular substance. The gaming prompts a neurological response that influences feelings of pleasure and reward, and the result, in the extreme, is manifested as addictive behavior.”
“Such compulsive play pushes aside other interests and responsibilities, threatening relationships, academics, jobs and more,” Dr. Sack writes. “Although this research focused on traditional online gamers, it’s no stretch to expect the same to apply to Pokémon Go players.”
To conclude, there is a thin line between having fun with a game and becoming addicted to it. The problem is that this line starts creating changes in our brain, generating new connections — before we even realize we are addicted.



Pokémon Go Brings Physical, Data Security Threats to Your Company

By Wayne Rash as written on www.eweek.com


NEWS ANALYSIS: The wildly popular phone app from Nintendo now has more users than Twitter and is causing concern where gamers randomly show up in search of Pokémon characters.
WASHINGTON—There already are signs at the National Holocaust Museum and at Arlington National Cemetery asking visitors not to play the Pokémon Go mobile augmented reality game while they are there.
There are reports that some of our nation's lawmakers were seen playing Pokémon Go on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. There have been several armed robberies here of Pokémon Go players by criminals who used the game's features to attract users, who were relieved of their smartphones and other valuables.
But the Pokémon Go phenomenon is not specific to Washington. It has become an international craze to the point that it's now the lead story on some television network news programs. To some extent, the game, which has been available for only a week, seems fairly harmless and even seems to have some benefits—it's getting people outside to walk around in search of Pokémon characters.
But for your company Pokémon Go has a more sinister side. The game has a huge potential as a cyber-security risk, malware vector, safety hazard, on-the-job time-waster for your employees and a waste of your company's computing resources. Worse, the game may become a gateway into your company's data stores and it can introduce malware that spreads within your network.
According to Chester Wisniewski, senior security advisor at Sophos, Pokémon Go brings threats from two different areas to people who play the game. If those people are your employees, they can bring those threats into your company. One of the most insidious is the fact that a spinoff of Google's parent company Alphabet is the force behind the game and is handling the location and points-of-interest data for the game.
Niantic Labs uses Pokémon Go to gather information about its users so they can play the game successfully, but the company also has the ability to use that information for other purposes. "It's an app that's designed to track you," Wisniewski pointed out. "Alphabet knows where you're at," he said.
Problems at Niantic Labs have added to the security issues with Pokémon Go. Wisniewski said that because of the company's scalability problems, millions of users are forced to download the app from third-party Websites, where some of the software contains malware along with the game.
One version of the malware, called DroidJack, is able to gain access to anything on your Android phone, including all of your email, your contacts and your text messages. In addition, this malware can access your keystrokes, on-board microphone and camera.
So far this malware doesn't affect versions of Pokémon Go for iOS devices and it doesn't affect versions from the Google Play store, but because the app is only available in five countries, users elsewhere have to go to third-party sites. However, even users in places where the official download of Pokémon Go are available apparently are downloading it from third-party sites, either because their Android devices don't work with the Play store or because of performance issues.
Either way, the malware is a significant problem, especially for employees who keep critical or proprietary information on their phones where Pokémon Go or the malware can find it. But that's not the only threat to the enterprise.
John Reed, senior executive director for Robert Half Technology, warns that games such as Pokémon Go can hurt productivity if employers aren't careful about its use. "Any productivity loss would be on a case-by-case basis—sometimes mobile games can create a false sense of urgency for users, but employees can find a balance between their responsibilities and entertainment," Reed said. He noted that allowing the use of games such as this during downtime, such as lunchtime and breaks, can actually encourage creativity.
But then there's the other side of security, which is keeping people out places where the public isn't allowed to wander. The New York Times has reported an influx of people in its building in search of game characters. Several federal buildings in Washington have reported visitors entering because of the game, rather than because they were on government business.
The problem with a game that's exploded in popularity in the way Pokémon Go has is 'people and companies not involved with the game don't know what to expect. In addition to the privacy concerns, the potential for malware and the problem of physical intrusions, people are simply showing up out of nowhere and then leaving in response to the game.
One action companies can take, Wisniewski said, is to set policies for what apps can be run on mobile devices that also contain company data. He suggests making it a requirement that only apps obtained from the app stores of the phone company can be used. Neither Apple's App Store nor the Google Play store allow malware-infested apps, and while there have been occasional problems, it's still a safer way to get apps than finding them in the wild.
And while you're setting mobile app policies, it's also probably important to require security software for mobile devices as a way to reduce the likelihood of malware infections that can threaten your network's integrity.

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Pokémon Go has an estimated 7.5M U.S. downloads, $1.6M in daily revenue

By Darrell Etherington as written on TechCrunch.com

pokemon go

Pokémon Go is off to a big start in the U.S., but just how big? The company hasn’t yet revealed any official numbers, but we have estimates to provide an idea of the scope of downloads and revenue the mobile game is generating.
App analytics company SensorTower used its predictive model of the App Store and Google Play, which takes hundreds of thousands of data points from its partners to generate an estimate of the download numbers Pokémon Go is seeing: it’s been downloaded a total of around 7.5 million times in the U.S. From Google Play and the iOS App Store, according to their numbers.
In terms of earning power, the game is making around $1.6 million per day, according to SensorTower, and that revenue estimate is limited to iOS only.
To put that into context, Clash Royal (which is among the biggest recent hits in mobile gaming) is currently estimated to be making around $350,000 per day on iOS, according to SensorTower’s data. Obviously, there’s going to be some drop-off when it comes to daily spend as the hype wears out, but Pokémon has a number of benefits that could add to its stickiness, including a beloved IP and ample avenues to expand its content offerings in order to keep users coming back.
Consider, for instance, that Pokémon Go currently only includes the original stable of 150 Pokémon; there are still another 570 remaining as of the release of Pokémon X/Y (and there are more on the horizon with the next installment’s release in Pokémon Sun and Moon).
Meanwhile, SimilarWeb covered other interesting comparisons for the game so far, including a revelation that it already leapfrogged Tinder in installs on Android in U.S. Installs, and that it already eclipses various other social media apps in active use time on devices.

pokemon go stats

Nintendo’s other recent mobile title had only 1.58 million downloads in its initial five days on iPhone and Android, which pales in comparison. That’s the power of Pokémon.


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