Fame and popularity are funny things. Sometimes they’re hard to explain.
Today, it’s Pokemon Go, the iOS and Android app by Niantic (with some help from The Pokemon Company, Nintendo, and Google). While the app becoming popular wasn't exactly hard to believe - Pokemon has kept a relatively high level of popularity and player bases through their many, many iterations over the last 20 years - the level of popularity certainly is; the app is currently on a trajectory to overtake Twitter in daily users.
Now, I fully understand this is currently a fad and it will die down to lower (but still quite substantial) levels, but that doesn’t tell me why these 5 days after release it blew up the way it did. Was it because of social media trending? Were there this many closet Pokemon fans? Do that many people even know what Pokemon is?
All of these questions mirror exactly what I remember from the 2012 release of Macklemore’s The Heist. For those of us who grew up in Seattle, we had seen the name Macklemore open up for almost everyone in every venue (small and smaller usually) since 2000, but nobody outside of Seattle knew the name (and most in Seattle probably knew the name but couldn’t pick him out of a lineup or knew he had albums).
Then 2012 happened. I still don’t quite understand. I remember sifting through Reddit and Twitter, seeing the name and hearing some of the tracks and thinking “it sounds like him, but it couldn’t be.” A fully independent effort with a super minor publishing deal with little to no promotion ended up as #1 on the Billboard Hip-Hop it’s first week, #2 Billboard overall, and a multi-platinum record in the end. It’s still a mystery to me; I’m really happy for the guy, but I can’t figure out what perfect storm of conditions occurred that created this buzz from seemingly nowhere.
Now, Pokemon Go doesn’t have quite the same conditions as it’s already a well known and popular entity, but I’m still at a loss as to really understand the fervor we’re experiencing. I knew it was going to be popular, but not Twitter popular. Popular enough to increase Nintendo’s stock 25% in one day. Stories of random swarms of people walking around catching pokemon - 5300 people in this case - are popping up all over (I’ve gotten texts from people out in the middle of the night where random meetups are happening).
It’s been fun the last few days - I’ve been nerding out with some family and friends who I didn’t think would get into it, and even saw some people of Facebook who I don’t interact with too often getting into it and reconnecting us. A large takeaway from the last 4-5 days has been the amount of people randomly interacting and creating a community where one didn’t previously exist.
I for one welcome our new Poke-overlords.