Over the course of the last week, Pokemon GO has taken the world by storm. Thousands upon thousands of people have started playing it, combining to an active userbase that almost exceeds Twitter. The formula that Nintendo and Niantic have come up with is just as addicting as the mainline Pokemon games, this time pushing players out of their homes and exploring their cities, interacting with others along the way. A few questions do arise in the wake of GO’s success though, primarily of which is, would this formula have worked with any other propetry in the world?
Pokemon has few competitors, although some series like Digimon and Yo-Kai Watch have achieved success as well. However, the central gameplay loop of GO is so essential to the very idea of Pokemon, that it’s doubtful anything else could have capitalized like the game currently is.
The first and most obvious reason for GO’s success is the diverse cast of memorable ‘mon featured in the game. The first generation of Pokemon remain very recognizable, especially faces like Charmander, Squirtle and of course, Pikachu. Most people that grew up in the 90s or 2000s have some level of knowledge on Pokemon, even if they weren’t into the series, most had friends or siblings that were. The original 150 Pokemon are iconic, and there’s a drive to catch them all, and earn your favorites.
Other series just don’t have this level of familiarity, even the most comparable series Digimon. Creatures like Agumon or Renamon may be the most recognizable, but by and large Digimon, just never hit the mainstream in quite the way that Pokemon did. You don’t generally see Digimon merchandise popping up in stores like Target and Walmart these days.