Africa Dispatches: Bob Perfect on Pokémon Go
by Mandy de Waal (@mandyldewaal) In July this year, Durban-based Bob Perfect aka Bob Purrfect aka The Bobness Monster was short of a little dosh. No worries — the career chameleon put this status on his Facebook page: “My bank balance is looking v depressing at the moment. If you need … someone to consult on Pokémon Go … plz hmu [hit me up]?”
Yup. It’s a thing. After Pokémon Go, the location-based augmented-reality game baked by SanFran dev company, Niantic (in partnership with Nintendo and The Pokémon Company) launched on 6 July 2016, professional Pokémon trainers started advertising their services on craigslist.
The big numbers
Before chatting to his Pokémon Bobness, let’s do the obligatory numbers on that free-to-play game involving those enchanting creatures that dwell among us, in the wild, and speak only their names.
- Pokémon Go daily active users in the US: 20m (stat date: 23 July 2016)
- Estimated number of downloads: 100m (stat date: 1 August 2016)
- % US Android devices with Pokémon Go installed: 10.81% (stat date: 13 July 2016)
- Time Pokémon Go users spend in app daily: 26 minutes. (stat date: 2 August 2016)
- Estimated revenue generated: US$200m (stat date: 8 August 2016)
(Numbers compiled by Craig Smith of DMR, who flogs Pokémon Go stats reports.)
Purrfect organises jols, speaks about youth culture, and writes for Vice’s Noisey but, in July, he was hunting Pokémon. “It’s totally rekindled the joy I got as a kid [playing Pokémon] and it’s been wonderful to share it with so many people,” he says. “There weren’t many people openly into Pokémon when I was growing up.”
Bobness first discovered Pokémon a couple of decades ago. “I first saw Pokémon on TV when I was 12, but it wasn’t really that interesting, other than being anime. It was only when I borrowed a friend’s Gameboy and played Pokémon Blue that I got into it. Hours disappeared daily and my whole school holiday was dedicated to catching as many Pokémon as possible, before I had to return the Gameboy.”
Cute creatures — brutal game
“The collecting and building a team to battle was fun. Learning all the strengths and weaknesses took time and the game could really destroy you if you didn’t prepare adequately. The characters are cute and inoffensive, and the stories that are attached to them are about teamwork, friendship and overcoming life’s obstacles together. It’s simple but it works,” says Perfect, who adds, “It did for years.”
The Bobness played three generations of Pokémon games, and traded Pokécards. Then, other games flirted with him and he moved on but, as an adult, he installed an emulator on his phone so he could play Pokémon again, because — you know — nostalgia. (News just in — if you’ve got Pokémon cards from your childhood, don’t turf them during the next move. They could be worth loads of dosh.)
And then it happened. News started breaking that a Pokémon augmented-reality app was in the works.
“I’m not sure exactly how I heard about it but, the second I saw it in my newsfeed, I watched the video and got stoked. I Googled “Pokémon Go! release date” weekly for nearly a year,” Perfect admits.
The silent treatment
But trying to catch ’em all wasn’t a walk in the park. “In the beginning, it was super-buggy and the servers kept crashing but I didn’t get too upset,” he says. Niantic, anticipating massive demand, had staggered the launch. Like hordes of other locals, Bobness was playing the game without it being officially released in South Africa.
A big lesson for brand types — and, believe me, every brandanista and their dog is going to jump on the ‘Brand Lessons from Pokémon’ bandwagon, so I’m going there first, or 15th — is that Niantic’s communication completely tanked. Bobness confirms this. “They absolutely sucked at it for the first few weeks but they’ve hired a social media team now and it’s helped a lot.” Look, not to overstate this, but it was so bad that Forbes wrote an article about the lack of communication with a headline that was more of a whine than an actual headline.
What’s the big idea or secret behind this app? “There’s nothing truly remarkable about it. It’s just a combination of other ideas. Pokémon + Ingress + Camera. They had their user-base advertising for them with the camera mode. Pictures of Pokémon in the real world flooded timelines and that created a lot of the mainstream hype. It’s developed really cool communities really quickly, which is interesting, because most games take quite a while to develop before they have hundreds of people at events,” Perfect explains.
How do you make an app just like Pokémon Go so your brand can also take over the world? Seriously. SERIOUSLY? If I knew the answer to that question, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this article.
When he’s not catching Pokémon, Perfect plays “hella good” music, and runs the regional music site he founded, Durban Is Yours. He’s yet to make dosh as a Pokémon Trainer, [the market in SA is still young], but his Pokémon Go journalism is in high demand. Find him on Twitter: @bobnessmonster.