Why AR game developers are thankful for Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go has 20 million daily active players, but it features a simplistic augmented reality implementation. At the GamesBeat 2016 conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, today, a panel of AR experts gave thanks to that game for setting expectations of the new technology so low among consumers.
Augmented reality is a cousin of VR, and it puts virtual digital imagery on top of the real world using a combination of camera and display technologies. Pokemon Go uses this technique to put its pocket monsters into your world. And now that its millions of players have an idea of what AR is, developers working in the space are looking to capitalize on that success by offering up far more advanced AR games.
“I think that Pokemon Go has probably generated more revenue than the entire VR industry,” CastAR cofounder Rick Johnson said during the panel. “Which is kinda crazy for a first-generation AR product.”
Johnson and his panelmates, Spin Master vice president of production Nick Beliaeff and Osmo chief executive officer Pramod Sharma, agreed that the game has won most of its popularity through its brand authenticity. But all three pointed out that doesn’t mean the game doesn’t have implications for the future of AR.
“Pokemon Go has defined the AR category for the consumer,” said Beliaeff. “It’s made our job easier. It’ll make it easier to exceed expectations.”
Beliaeff argued that the AR that is coming down the line from other companies is going to blow away most consumers after using something as basic as Pokemon Go. But the whole panel was thankful for the game because it is also rubbing off some of the rough edges of turning AR into a social norm.
“If you look at something like Google Glass and then something like Pokemon Go, it was really hard to look cool wearing Google Glass,” said Beliaeff. But we already accept that people are going to walk around looking at their phones.”
For developers, having Pokemon Go signify that consumers will accept phone-based AR is a sign that they can move into that space without creating a product that the public will shun. It also means that kids will accept this as normal.
“Kids grow up with this technology,” said Beliaeff. “For them, it just works.”
Of course, as Osmo’s Sharma points out, just because kids see everyone playing something, that doesn’t mean they will accept it. It turns out, young consumers have standards.
“Kids are a really interesting market,” said Sharma. “It’s much harder to win over kids because they have too many distractions. The bar [for them] is really high.”