You’ve probably heard talk in the news (or from younger family members) about Pokémon GO. But what exactly is it and, what’s all the fuss about?

Here is your WYZA® guide to the craze taking the world by storm.

The game becoming a worldwide obsession
Pokémon GO is a game that you can download as a free app for your smart phone or tablet. It’s not the first Pokémon game ever released – the world was first introduced to the cartoon critters back in 1996 and there have been many Pokémon games since then. But what makes Pokémon GO so special is that it’s the first Pokémon game to use augmented reality.

So, what is augmented reality?
Augmented reality is an exciting fusion of the real world with the digital world. In Pokémon GO that means players (known as trainers) see the real world through their device’s screen – like they do when they’re taking photographs – but they also see fictional Pokémon monsters too.

Gameplay is simple in Pokémon GO. Your job as a Pokémon trainer is to walk around and find a Pokémon then hold your phone in front of you and swipe your finger or thumb at the Pokémon to throw a Poké Ball and catch it inside.

Once you’ve caught them, you can train them up by feeding them ‘candies’ to make them stronger. Then you can use your Pokémon in Pokémon battles to win glory at points of interest called Pokémon gyms which are the in-game representations of real life landmarks such as train stations, parks, ferry stops and restaurants.

There are some fierce Pokémon battles raging at gyms over well-known landmarks right now. In Australia, The Sydney Opera House is one of them, while in the US Pokémon players are battling it out for control of the prestigious White House fountain gym in Washington DC.

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Catching an 'Evee' Pokemon in Pokemon Go

Why are Pokémon GO players everywhere?
Players have to keep a constant lookout for when Pokémon will appear. The game uses your devices’ GPS signal to track your location and an algorithm to randomly place these mini monsters in the game environment around you. The critters can show up anywhere and at any time.

A bat-like Zubat could be flying above your toaster in your kitchen at home. A furry Eevee might be waiting at the bus stop down the road – Pokémon can even show up in the most unlikely places like in the toilet, your local church, or neighbourhood police station.

As well as catching Pokémon you can also pick up Pokémon eggs. The only way to hatch an egg is to walk. Some eggs require you to walk 5km. It’s no wonder the game has been praised for getting couch potatoes outside and active, albeit with their eyes glued to their phones.

Why some Pokémon GO players are catching more than they bargained for
‘Gotta catch ‘em all’ is the catch cry for Pokémon games and collecting all 150 Pokémon is part of the huge appeal of the game. It’s also one of the reasons Pokémon trainers have been catching more than just Pokémon, as they explore areas they might never have had any reason to go before.

Despite an in-game warning to ‘be aware of your surroundings at all times,’ there have been some reports of players bumping into things and becoming injured. Other reports are of players being lured to places and robbed or attacked. There are even a few reports of players finding dead bodies.

The Los Angeles Times reported the case of three women playing Pokémon GO who stumbled on the body of a man found lying in bushes in Marian Bear Memorial Park, a park in the City of San Diego, California.

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A pidgey Pokemon appearing in a park

Who’s behind the game?
It’s made by developer Niantic Labs and published by Tokyo based games publisher The Pokémon Co. It launched in Australia, New Zealand and in the US on the 6th July 2016 and since then thousands of gamers of all ages have begun playing. It has proven so popular that it’s currently the number one ranking free downloaded title on iTunes. On July 13, it almost overtook Twitter in daily active users when the game reached 21 million users.

But players aren’t the only winners. Games publisher Nintendo looks likely to bag a tidy sum thanks to the game’s immense popularity and since the company is part owner in Pokémon GO’s parent company, The Pokémon Co.

Revenue from in-app purchases has already reached US $14 million dollars. Investors too were so excited that just a week after the game’s release Nintendo’s share price soared, up almost 25 per cent. It’s expected that the game will make the company more than US $30 million dollars in revenue just this year.

Remember these retro gaming crazes?
Pokémon GO is sure to leave its mark on gamers in a big way. But it’s not the first gaming craze that’s changed the way we play. Here are some others that you might remember playing with yourself or with your kids.


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It may sound like a bad odour but Atari’s Pong was ground breaking for its time. The sport simulation was like a simple game of tennis where players moved bats to intercept a ball. The arcade version was released in 1972 and by 1974 it had sold 8000 Pong machines. A home version of the game Home Pong released in 1974 sold approximately 150 000 units.


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Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani once stated that the shape of his iconic Pac-Man character was inspired by a piece of pizza missing a slice. In Pac-man, players had to travel around a maze eating up Pac-dots while avoiding four coloured ghosts. Pac-Man is still considered one of the highest grossing video games of all time. It generated more than US $2.5 billion dollars by the 1990s.

Donkey Kong

Donkey Kong first appeared as the opponent in an arcade machine of the same name in 1981. The release marked the rise in popularity of platform games that saw gamers move a character through a number of suspended platforms and obstacles. Today we know the character as a banana obsessed, lovable ape in multiple game releases. He can climb, throw barrels and sometimes has a little gorilla sidekick called Diddy Kong with him. Games in the franchise are still very popular, with over 40 million games sold to date.


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This much loved Italian, overalls-wearing, plumber is now Nintendo’s flagship character, but when he first appeared in the game Donkey Kong in 1981 he was called Jumpman and he was a carpenter instead of a plumber. Since then Mario has appeared in more than 200 video games and his franchise is the highest selling of all time, with more than 210 million games sold worldwide.


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Tamagotchi were handheld digital pets that appeared in Japan in 1993 and the craze then quickly spread around the world. Tamagotchi owners had to press buttons on their egg-shaped Tamagotchi devices to feed, discipline and play games with their virtual pets. Each action had a consequence for the pet – these pets could even become toilet trained and sick and if sickness was left unchecked, they could die.

Angry Birds

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This was one of the first games to be hugely popular on mobile phones. First released in 2009 for Apple iPhones, the game soon became hugely popular because of its irate ensemble of bird characters and the fun gameplay that meant you had to use a giant catapult to fling them at pigs sheltered by building blocks.


WYZA’s Founder Michael Farley shares his passion for games

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Ever since I was a young boy I've played the silver ball, from Soho down to Brighton I must have played them all. I was involved with the launch in Australia of the movie Tommy. I also set up promotional launch parties for Roger Daltrey and The Who. Tommy (Roger) and I sure played a mean pinball.

I established the first Timezone centers in Perth and did all the promotions for Leisure & Allied Industries so I got to play all the games. The most successful game I launched in Australia was in 1978 called Space Invaders. I ran national Space Invader competitions and even commissioned a song. The song Space Invaders was a novelty hit in Australia and ending up as the fourth best selling single in Australia in 1980.

I think people engage with games because of the challenge, entertainment and fun factor. Then there is the emotional satisfaction. People do it because it is fun and it feels good. It can also be great for stress relief.


Space Invaders: 5 fast facts

  1. Space Invaders was entered into the Video Game Hall of Fame in 2016.
  2. Space Invaders took off in 66 cities around the world.
  3. Space Invaders was a Japanese shooting video game released in 1978 by Taito.
  4. Space Invaders was developed by Tomohiro Nishikado, who was inspired by Star Wars.
  5. Space Invaders was one of the forerunners of modern video gaming and helped expand the video game industry from a novelty to a global industry. The high score display at the top of Space Invaders quickly became a standard feature in arcade games. In 1980, the game that had been released in Japan in 1978 broke free from the arcade and entered the home console market to become the Atari’s most popular game.

Video: How Stuff Works  

What games did you used to love to play? Share your memories in the comments section below.

Featured image: Yunus Malik /