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Will Pokemon GO's success have any influence on the way indies make games?

Our Indie Mavens weigh in
Will Pokemon GO's success have any influence on the way indies make games?
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Pokemon Go is more than just the next big thing in mobile.

According to its advocates, it's taken take over the world despite a worldwide release, and dragged even the hardiest of non-gamers into the world of mobile gaming.

But while we're more than aware what the general public and press think of the game, we wanted to know what people in the industry thought.

So we turned to our Indie Mavens to give us their opinion on the phenomenon, asking them:

  • Are you enjoying Pokemon Go, or at least the blanket coverage about a very social mobile game?
  • Do you think it will have any impact on the way you make games?
Tanya X. Short

Tanya X. Short

Creative Director at Kitfox Games

I was one of those that bounced off of Ingress  [Niantic Labs' first location game], yet was pulled in by Pokemon Go.

If anyone had any doubt, the psychological power of collectibles and intrinsically valuable (i.e. nostalgic) characters is pretty clear.

Everyone's suddenly excited about collecting dozens of rats and pigeons, even if it's mostly because they give points towards levelling up... and the core users love the rat and pigeon brands.

Previously, I'd been a bit disappointed there wasn't more creativity (and investment money) being poured into AR compared to VR -- hopefully this success will be inspirational to others.

Kitfox isn't looking to get into the AR or mainstream space anytime soon, but it's all the more encouragement to create our own IPs. Maybe someday we'll make a world as beloved as Pokemon.

Aaron Fothergill

Aaron Fothergill

Co-founder at Strange Flavour

Firstly, I think it’s a Really Good Thing (TM) that we're seeing some really positive coverage of video games on the Pokemon Go story.

Sure, there’s the odd bit of abuse and idiocy, but the stories of all sorts of people meeting up to play, and children on the autism spectrum finding previously undiscovered social skills and friends, is the sort of thing I’d love to see happening in games news every week.

As with all new "Really Good Things (TM)" in gaming, it's always tricky to avoid being sucked in entirely and jumping on the bandwagon of the bit you see as being popular and a good idea. The end result can easily be a complete derailment of your own good ideas and work.

Back when I worked at Argonaut Games, we used to call it "E3 Syndrome", when your designers and producers would come back from their annual E3 trip and suddenly declare "We have to re-write everything! I’ve just seen this cool feature in a new game."

“It has echoes of the negative news stories that followed massive MMOs in South East Asia.”
Aaron Fothergill

On the flip-side of course, you can’t just go "Meh!" and ignore it. There's a lot to be learned here (like if you have the Pokemon brand, you'll make a mint).

The combination of the Pokemon brand/game and AR is the first AR game I've seen that actually makes sense.

It's not without its flaws (mostly the usual real world location based issues of the game being radically different in different parts of the country), but from what I've been reading so far, the only real issue the game's had are the good problem of overloaded servers due to its success.

They’re also going to have to watch that the human angle doesn't taint the game too.

People driving while playing, muggers using lures to trap players, and inappropriate Gym locations have all popped up.

It has echoes of the negative news stories that followed massive MMOs in South East Asia for instance. There's a whole area of different security software development there I think.

I'm also pleased it's having positive effects outside the game itself too.


An artist friend of mine messaged me yesterday to say a mural of hers (on the side of Googies Cafe in Folkestone) is marked as a Pokestop. She's seeing if she can get the cafe to update it with her website URL as we speak.

Huge social AR games give rise to interesting new advertising potentials.

While Strange Flavour isn't jumping into AR (or VR) yet, there's a ton to be learned from how people are playing Pokemon Go and how it’s being perceived and reported on.

Ben Murch

Ben Murch


I love it... well, when it works that is!

Quite frankly, the launch was a bit of a mess. However, when I have been able to log on and get to grips, it's fantastic. Actually going out into the real world to catch Pokemon is very exciting.

“Chasing down Meowth and Weedles in the woods really felt like the first proper combination of tech and exercise..”
Ben Murch

I went on a 10km run / hunt at the weekend.

Chasing down Meowth and Weedles in the woods really felt like the first proper combination of tech and exercise. You can see how AR is going to impact our lives over the next 10 years.

If apps like Google Maps and Around Me were the first step, then this very much feels like gamification and a solid second step forward.

It's also the first "craze" we've had in a long time. That's exciting! Everywhere you go, people are gazing at their phones, lining up ball throws... and whilst I haven't actually engaged in a full blown conversation with another player, you generally get a knowing nod and smile.

It will be very interesting to see how long this all lasts. Will new features and creatures be added? Will server issues and crashes be fixed? I guess we'll see.

There will also be some very interesting lessons to be learned from the last week, but I can't see it making a huge impact on the way we make games. This type of game is very, very different to the ones we create.

You're also about to see a whole load of clones over the next six months. Simpsons Go, Disney Go, you know how it goes. I wonder how long it'll take for this AR style of game to take the crown from the Clash of Clans clones.

Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a Jigglypuff on the balcony!

Mike Rose

Mike Rose

PR Manager and Developer Relations at Ripstone

I was being my super, snarky, cynical self before the game launched in the UK.

A week later I am oh god so addicted it hurts.

I went out this weekend with some friends on a Pokemon day, just to catch Pokemon and battle gyms. The Ripstone HQ is a Pokestop, and we each take it in turns here putting lure modules in place.

Please don't judge me.

I can't imagine it'll have a great impact on how we make games here at Ripstone, but I'll tell you what: I bet it's made Nintendo rethink their entire business. Animal Crossing Go, anyone?

Nathan Fouts

Nathan Fouts

Founder at Mommy's Best Games

Yes, it's great, we play it with the kids and they love it. Now then...

It's interesting that any "how to" guides on game development and PR are pretty much defied by this game or could be by anything really high profile.

“The dev in me is bitter and angry that the 'normal rules don't apply here.'”
Nathan Fouts

It did so many things wrong and it just didn't matter. Is Pokemon Go the Donald Trump of games?

Terrible launch, servers down constantly, activation emails not returned, fuzzy launch date with relatively little awareness, no tutorial, the game hangs frequently, bugs everywhere.

Ignoring why the servers were down (probably too much popularity!), there's so many things most small indie devs work hard to eliminate, but here were ignored or happening in full sight.

What does this tell us? These things don't matter? Or is it simply the strength of a brand? If you get your core idea correct (catch Pokemon in 'real life'), it's all fine? I don't know.

The dev in me is bitter and angry that the "normal rules don't apply here", but it's hard to deny all the positive outcomes of the game even in its current, half-complete state.

Kepa Auwae

Kepa Auwae

Business / Design at RocketCat Games

Pokemon Go is going to change how all game developers make games!

  • (so long as they have access to beloved Nintendo brands from their childhood.)

Pokemon Go could have been an app that did nothing but bricked your phone as it showed a drawing of Pikachu.”
Kepa Auwae

Pokemon Go shows that people care about Augmented Reality and it will be a powerful force in the future!

  • (as long as every AR game from now on features a beloved childhood brand that was never on smartphones before)

Pokemon Go is going to change how I make games, forever!

  • (as soon as I get the rights from Nintendo to put Mario in my upcoming game: Jumpy Plumber)

My favourite think-piece articles on Pokemon Go are the ones that try to attribute its success to some facet of the actual game's design.

Pokemon Go could have been an app that did nothing but bricked your phone as it showed a drawing of Pikachu. It still would have topped the charts.

I have evidence too: Remember that scam app, Pokemon Yellow? It was a fake Pokemon app that didn't run. Didn't that rise high the charts before it got taken down?

I'll have to go back and look to see if anyone said that app climbed the charts because of how good that game was.

[people id="493" name="Josh Presseisen"]

I'm not sure!

Pokemon is just such a perfect fit for mobile game, some of my kids play it. I don't really have time to play much.

It makes me think that the level of interaction with other players, AR, and collect-ability is extremely important, but then again, its Pokemon. So as Kepa said you wouldn't need much to make it hit the top charts.

There are some things to learn from it I think - the collectible aspect - which is already sort of indirectly influencing a game I am working on...


Molly Heady-Carroll

Molly Heady-Carroll

Co-founder & Lead Artist

I love Pokemon: I have played the TCG since it first came out and I have caught all 251 Pokemon in Pokemon Crystal.

BUT! The entirety of my social media feed is filled with Pokemon! It's hard to keep track of other stuff, so I’m not enjoying that.

Actually, I'm always happy to see a video game not just capturing the imagination of the games industry, but the general public as well. It's positive and healthy for video games as a medium.


Pokemon Go reminded me how powerful the fantasy of a video game can be.

Pokemon Go as a game is very clunky at the moment, however the chance to pretend to be a Pokemon master (in a socially acceptable way) is just too exciting for people to care. That’s interesting!

Pierre-Luc Vettier

Pierre-Luc Vettier


I'm not playing Pokemon Go yet, as the game is still unavailable in France, but I think that all the advertising in more "classical" media about the game is a very good thing. Feedback is mostly very good, and I found the physical exercise orientation of the game very nice and interesting.

There's a lot of things to learn about Pokemon Go and its launch, mostly about problems it encountered, but I don't think it will have any impact at all on the way developers are making their games.

For sure, we will see soon a lot of cheap clones of the game, but Pokemon is a very particular licence, and trying to copy it or some of its features is far from being a guarantee of success or quality.

So honestly, I don't think it will have any impact on the way indies are making their games.

Aaron Fothergill

Aaron Fothergill

Co-founder at Strange Flavour

Just to add that the lack of tutorial or decent instructions came up while chatting with my grumpy old developer friends (think Indie Mavens but more grizzled).

It's something that's almost a Nintendo trademark feature in that they tend to assume you've played one of the games in that series previously, and the first was written back when we didn't need instructions for games. So it's similar to Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon to a degree.

What it's done in Pokemon Go though is reinforce the social aspect of the game, as players who are new to the Pokeverse have to actually talk to the more seasoned players to get help in actually playing.

That or you play along with your friends until one of you discovers something and you all learn.

Matthew Annal

Matthew Annal

MD at Nitrome

I had a lot of server issues trying to give the game a go, so I have played it successfully a total of once.

I have never really been into Pokemon, but I am a huge Nintendo fan and I really liked the concept. Despite this I knew going in that this is never really going to be for me.

It is cool, but it involves time I just don't have, and so for that reason I don't feel compelled to invest in the game.

“I think everything about the game is probably out of scope of a small indie dev like Nitrome.”
Mat Annal

I'm curious as to how this aspect above all will play into the long term success of the title. It seems at odds with other mega hit games which are practical to play wherever you are. Maybe this will cause the game to be a huge fad rather than an ongoing behemoth?

Regardless, it's great to see any game that's huge breaking from the established format of other hits! To do this using AR in an interesting way that truly justifies its use makes this title a breath of fresh air!

The fact that it uses a huge brand like Pokemon I'm sure has given the title a mega leg-up, but it's admirable that it has been taken in such a unique direction and well deserved that it has paid off.

Do you think it will have any impact on the way you make games? I doubt it!

Despite being hugely inspiring, I think everything about the game is probably out of scope of a small indie dev like Nitrome.

Part of the success of the title is down to getting everyone playing at the same time, and that's not an audience any indie could guarantee getting.

I'm sure it may have smaller influence... everything does. The way it uses a little of what big games around it do to succeed is in itself hugely interesting and reminds us all that we should think outside the box more often!

Sebastian Lindén

Sebastian Lindén

CEO & Creative Director at Qaos Games

Although I’m not a Pokemon fan myself, after hanging out with friends a week ago or two talking about the game, I downloaded it on the US App Store as it wasn’t launched in Stockholm yet.

Pokemon Go is one of the first examples of an AR-game that makes sense.”
Sebastian Lindén

I started playing the same evening. At 4.20am, I found myself catching Pokemon while walking home from a night out. Just outside my door, I saw another guy who was playing the game, he looked up, smiled and said “Good luck!”.

I feel that there’s a positive vibe around the game. It’s also interesting how there were so many stories just a few days after the game’s release.

It is very PR-friendly, and the stories make everyone curious. I’ve seen friends downloading Pokemon Go as their first mobile game ever!

Although the game requires a lot of time, Pokemon Go is one of the first examples of an AR-game that makes sense.

They randomly spawn Pokemon and objects, but still do it in a progressive, rewarding, random way. It keeps the curiosity up, and leads to insane retention.

I don’t think it will impact the way developers make games. Sure, it could influence niche communities, and we could maybe see similar communities such as Dragonball catch on the AR trend, but overall I don’t think so.

Leanne Bayley

Leanne Bayley

Developer at We Heart Dragons

I'm loving Pokemon Go, but then I was always going to. I've been a fan of Pokemon for almost 20 years now!

And I think that's the key to its success. As the other guys have said, this wouldn't be (and indeed wasn't) the hit that it is without the beloved IP that just so happens to be the perfect for for this technology.

They're tapping into a global fanbase that's taken 20 years to build across games, TCG, cartoons, comics and films.

Pokemon Go's impact on how I make games is that I find myself taking a longer break in the afternoon to go catch 'em all.

Travis Ryan

Travis Ryan

Studio Head at Dumpling Design

So, for the past few mornings me and my son have breakfast, check the map, and then potter off for a short Pokemon reccy in and around our village - and it's magic, plain and simple.

“I’m stoked that Pokemon Go is a thing, bringing people together and encouraging our imaginations.”
Travis Ryan

We're exploring familiar places anew, finding things that have been right on our doorstep all along, and bumping into friends old and new (not to mention boosting local business with drinks, snacks and suncream topups!)

Bruce has just turned 5, this is one of his first full introductions to gaming, and it blows my mind how he’ll perceive ‘play’ from here on out.

I could (perhaps should) be more critical of it - there’s plenty to deconstruct the phenomenon from the product - but honestly, I don’t want to.

I’m stoked that Pokemon Go is a thing, bringing people together and encouraging our imaginations.

Will it influence how Dumpling make games in some way?

How can it not?