The breakout success of Pokémon GO has been lauded in comparison to top social-networking apps (surpassing Tinder, chasing Twitter) and historical data (exceeding Candy Crush’s rumored peak audience of 20 million).
That makes it the biggest mobile game in U.S. history.
The game’s real-world implications can have the power to influence who wakes up in the White House in January.
The Clinton campaign has caught on, with Hillary announcing on the campaign trail, "I don't know who created Pokémon Go, but I'm trying to figure out how we get them to have Pokémon go to the polls." This is brilliant beyond being a great sound bite.
The revival of the most beloved franchise of the 1990s could not have come at a better time, and presents us [hi Niantic Labs!] with a paramount opportunity: leverage the momentum of 18-to-29 year-old's’ desire to “catch ‘em all” to get all young Americans to the polls this November.
Pokémon’s prime audience -- a group representing over one-fifth of America’s population -- also happens to be the demographic that has consistently voted at lower rates than all other age groups in every presidential election since 1962.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18-to-29s represented 21.2% of the eligible population, yet only 15.4% of voters in 2012.
Compare that with 45-to-64s who made up 35.6% of the population and represented 39.1% of votes, or 65 and older voters who made up 19.1 percent of the population and represented 22.3% of the vote.
These trends remain very similar since Pokémon’s inception in the 1996 election year.
Pokémon GO’s smashing success can be attributed to a number of factors, including smartphone penetration / Internet usage among the youth audience and addictive game design. It taps into FOPO (just coined): Fear of Missing out on Pokémon.
Much like FOMO, which has been used to describe the millennial generation's fear of missing out, FOPO describes the reality that there are constantly new Pokémon available to catch and not playing means you’re losing out on them. Most notably, though, it taps into nostalgia.
Pokémon GO is the modern incarnation of a childhood / coming-of-age staple franchise.
One element of gameplay holds the key to the youth vote: The need to travel in order to collect Pokémon. Indeed, a Pokémon Master is not made sitting on the couch. The game necessitates exploration in order to advance, and has already been hailed by some journalists as a potential answer to obesity in America.
Turning polling sites this November into PokéStops* and announcing Election Day Legendary** Hillary and Bernie (given his popularity with young people) Pokémon would be a revolutionary way to attract young people to the polls. Pokémon GO could be the tipping point we’ve been waiting for to finally get America’s youth to vote.
*PokéStops dish out helpful loot, like Pokéballs, snacks, medicines, etc - and are attached to places of interest
**Legendary Pokémon are a group of incredibly rare, powerful and highly coveted characters
Let’s make this the year that changes voting dynamics in the United States, using the power of Pokémon as a jumping off point to creating a more self-selecting group of youth voters in the years to come. But for now: #PokemonGoVote!