• August 18, 2016

5 Lessons for Executives From Pokémon Go

Any executive can find inspiration in Niantic’s playbook.

It seems like you can’t go very far these days without hearing something about Pokémon Go. In fact, nine out of 10 adults have heard of the hit game, according to recent research, and four in 10 millennials consider themselves obsessed.

The location-based augmented reality game hasn’t just captured the hearts and minds of people all around the world; it’s also turned Niantic, the company that created it, into a $3.65 billion unicorn. The app, which was downloaded an estimated 7.5 million times in the U.S. within the first week of its July 6 launch, is said to be generating $1.6 million in daily revenue on iOS alone.

What Can Niantic Teach You?

No matter whether you’re a huge Pokémon Go fan or just can’t get your head around why it’s so appealing, there are some important lessons that any executive can learn by taking a page out of Niantic’s playbook.

  • Reimagine old ideas. Pokémon isn’t new; it’s been around since the 1990s. What Niantic has done so well here is tap into an existing fan base of millennials who grew up playing Pokémon and get them and others excited about it all over again by giving it a new twist. Sometimes old ideas, products, and services just need to be updated and made contextually relevant to take off once again. What solutions do you have in your arsenal that could be refreshed?
  • Combine technologies to create something new. Mobile gaming apps aren’t new. The App Store offers more than 631,000 of them. So why has Pokémon Go been a breakout star? In part because it’s arguably the first of its kind to combine existing mobile app technology with augmented reality to create something completely new. Within your own business, try to identify opportunities to make an existing technology better by giving it new functions or features.
  • Offer unexpected benefits. Not surprisingly, kids love Pokémon Go too. One of the reasons why parents are happy to let their kids play Pokémon Go is that they’ve actually got to leave the house and get outside to play. In the process, they get some exercise. Unexpected fringe benefits like these can go a long way toward fueling adoption, so they’re worth thinking about and promoting.
  • Consider the risks. Any new venture is going to have risks, but you want to minimize the potential security and safety risks to both your organization and the consumers. Many users raised concerns over Pokémon Go having full access to the data in their Google accounts, and several news stories surfaced about safety hazards, including accidents, wild animal encounters, and crime, linked to playing the game. Being prepared for the risks that come with the territory and being flexible enough to address them is essential for success.
  • Continuously improve. If you were to download Pokémon Go today, it would be quite different from the original version that came out in early July. In the weeks since its launch, Niantic has worked around the clock to fix bugs, make updates, and try to enhance the user experience. By working continuously to improve its product, the company has been able to ensure greater satisfaction so the game proliferates even further.


While Pokémon Go may not be on the tip of everyone’s tongue—and fingers—forever, it still offers some useful lessons that any executive can follow to help improve their business. Everything that Niantic has done may seem pretty straightforward and simple, but in hindsight great ideas almost always are. The trick is applying them to your own situation.

Like this story? Read more about using location-based services.