From Pokémon Go to Pokémon Gone? On Media-hype and Reality

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Remember the augmented reality game, Pokémon Go? The game was released a year ago in July of 2016 and created a stir within the online gaming world. But stretching beyond gaming, the app affected people in all aspects of life. You might recall the game was blamed for many accidents, including a girl who was struck by a vehicle, two men who fell off a cliff in San Diego and countless trespassing incidents.

Companies banned the app because workers were distracted, while others used the hype of the game as a marketing strategy. In a previous Firestorm article Poké Go or Poké No – Are you using common sense to Catch ‘Em All?, I detailed the app and presented examples of users finding themselves in problematic situations based upon lack of common sense.

Within that article I posed the question: Pokémon Go is a new application; will the popularity die down after a few weeks, or will HR Directors be reprimanding distracted Pokémon Hunters – or employees – for an extended time?

I’ve thought a handful of times, ‘what the heck happened to Pokémon Go?’ News channels and social media platforms were full of coverage of the then new app. Then, it seemingly disappeared overnight.

More than a year has passed – what have we learned?

To answer my year-old question – Pokémon Go did, indeed, die down; however not overnight, but rather after a few months. According to App Annie, the app was the number one downloaded game on Apple devices from its release date in early July 2016 until August 10, 2016. By February of 2017, Pokémon Go fell to #249 on the list.

Although the game became the fastest mobile game to hit $600 million in revenues (July – September 2016), its popularity began declining after three months. It’s safe to think HR directors approved of the decline so they could manage employees rather than Pokémon Hunters.

Downloads were not the only decreasing statistic stemming from the app. Issues like trespassing and robbery were associated with Pokémon Go last summer and according to law enforcement, the problems have declined, although there is no formal research on a direct correlation. Paul Hoppe, police chief for Wyoming, Minn., revealed his department dealt with complaints relating to the app for eight months, but have now stopped. “We are not experiencing the issues we were seeing last year when it first came out,” Hoppe said. “Most of that has gone away.”

Did the media hype up Pokémon Go and create more buzz than necessary?

Short answer? Yes.

We’re no stranger to the media’s story over-coverage, especially during crises. Many times during a crisis, an organization is the center of media attention. Whether you’re flipping the television on or hopping onto social media, if a crisis (or viral event, like Pokémon Go) is ongoing, every platform will be saturated with opinions and coverage.

In relation to a crisis or violent event, if there is conflict, media outlets will have a conflict bias. Media companies will place themselves in the middle of two feuding people (or organizations) and keep the conflict front and center. Conflict keeps attention and generates click-throughs, shares and other forms of ad revenue. If your organization participates in that conflict and continues to respond, you will fuel the issue forward. This behavior will keep a company or event in the spotlight. Today, news is entertainment. Networks look for sensationalism to drive ratings and obtain  advertisers. Today, it may be less about the ‘right to know,’ and more about the revenue.

The effects of media and online communication hype can build a story to positive critical mass. The awareness generated by media attention to Pokémon Go led to increased downloads. During this period of time, Nintendo’s stocks skyrocketed by 33 percent within the first week of the game’s release. Small businesses, like those in Occoquan, Virginia, experienced increased business due to Pokémon Go users venturing into their towns to catch roaming creatures. A domino effect occurred.

On the reverse side, media hype and online communication can destroy or significantly alter a brand, reputation and situation, especially if the coverage is focused on a violent or negative event. The state flower of Colorado is a Columbine; however, most associate the word Columbine with the school shooting of 1999, not a flower.

Related: Attend a July webinar session – You’re Saying the Wrong Thing!

In a recent Firestorm Spotlight Session, President/CEO, Jim Satterfield, explained the topic of Much Media About Nothing. The session, recorded here, outlined how quickly situations can change due to media – whether social or traditional. A Brief of the session can be downloaded.

Although the popularity of the app has significantly decreased, it did encourage users to step away from their collective couches and explore their surroundings. It simultaneously provided the media a light-hearted diversion from the very serious events occurring each day on the world stage.

It serves Firestorm readers as a reminder to recognize the power of social virality and how easy it is to lose complete control of events and messages. To learn more on this subject, join us for our monthly webinar sessions. This month, Firestorm President/CEO, Jim Satterfield, discusses crisis communication and media in the webinar You’re Saying the Wrong Thing!

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