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Pokemon Go and the Resurgence of Augmented Reality

19 Jul

The last time I heard anyone talk about augmented reality I was interning at 360i, working on the USA Network Account. I forget exactly what show we were referring to, but they were considering creating an augmented reality app for some premiere. I thought it was the coolest thing: the true merging of the digital world and the real one. But then after the awe passed, I remember wondering how practical it was, and if it would ever go anywhere.

It’s now four years later, and it looks as though Pokemon Go has answered that question for me. Let me start by saying I’m not a fan of Pokemon (I mean, when I was in high school I learned a lot about it from the kids I sat for. I think one of them even tried to teach me the card game, but it didn’t stick.). However, I do think that the Pokemon Go app is incredible. I’m not talking about the whole “geeks finally getting out of their houses or basements to do geeky things”, but how they took a game – a game that has traditionally been a solitary activity – and turned it into something that blends the virtual world of Pokemon with the one outside the door.

Now, I haven’t played yet, but what I’m really interested in seeing is how long this is going to last. I’ve heard about people quitting their jobs to trek across the country to “catch ’em all” and people creating meetup groups to catch their Pokemon together – but what I think about is how long the craze will last. Granted, as with all services, the app will hit a saturation point where downloads and active users will taper off. That part is natural. There are only so many subscribers an app or a service is going to get. But after a few months, a few years, how many of those users will still be active? This is the type of game that requires the player to constantly be on their phone, as they could stumble upon a Pokemon at any time, in any place. How many of these people will still be interested, or have the energy, to constantly be on the lookout?



The problem with Second Screen, so far

27 Jun

I recently came across an article detailing what’s wrong with the second screen industry.  Although I do believe that second screen hasn’t quite figured it out yet, I completely disagree with (most) of what was said in this article.  You can find the article here, and let me know what you think.

First, the article states that the second screen was born out of boredom and defined by consumers.  Although that may be true, it evolved, like so much else, so that TV viewers could talk about what was happening in and around their favorite programs.  It used to be that you would talk about what you watched at work or school the next day with your friends – now you can do it instantly, as it’s happening, with superfans all over the country.

The second point the author tries to make is that “too many are trying to make the second screen the first screen”.  I don’t see that happening, at least not yet.  The apps that do allow for users to vote, choose the ending to an episode, etc., are very well received, even for the “lean-back” experience that is TV viewing.  Viewers want to feel like they are part of the TV experience, not just passive bystanders.  TV viewing has changed, like so much else, to an interactive experience.  For example, Psych’s 100th episode, where viewers were able to vote for the killer and therefore influence the ending of the episode, had very high involvement on social.

One app to rule them all? Yes, although many people (myself included) download more apps than we actually use, I don’t  believe that means that content providers and distributers should combine all of their content into one application for consumers to use.  Take me, for example.  I watch Game of Thrones and Newsroom on HBO, Dexter on Showtime, Psych on USA, and Revenge, Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy on ABC. Although there are apps that allow you to watch all programs within it (Zeebox), the best apps that allow for interactivity are the specialized apps that are show specific.  Again, using myself as an example, I only use the second screen apps for the shows that I am truly obsessed with (like Dexter, which I have been watching since season two).  Most people will not use every second screen app for every show they watch, it’s just not possible.

I do agree with the author that many times second screen applications evolve as an after thought.  For the industry to truly be taken seriously, and be adopted by the masses, second screen has to be integrated from the beginning, part and parcel with the content.  One truly great example is Burn Notice’s “First Contact”.  They have done a great job of integrating the shows content into a second screen experience from the beginning.

However, there is much more to social TV than just knowing what is trending or most watched.  It’s an EKG or barometer of the most popular moments of a program – whether its sports or reality.

Gamification or rewards: what do movie companion apps really offer?

13 Jun

In the past couple of weeks, a plethora of movie companion apps have been released, both for big screen and DVD releases.  But unlike third party applications, many of these applications don’t offer rewards.  Mainly, theses apps have a gamification aspect to them to get users involved and interested in the upcoming movie (or DVD) release.

But what exactly do these ‘gamification’ apps offer?

epicApps like “Fast and Furious 6” and “Epic”, which both came out prior to their big screen debut, are essentially gamified apps, that really have no rewards to them.

These apps, however, do let you become part of the movie experience.

The Epic app allows for you to build and protect the forest, like Queen Tara does.  You also train and fortify your army of Leafmen, and battle against the Boggans, as they do in the movie.  But in essence, the app is a game, and a game that is aimed towards those who will most likely go and see the movie.  There are some in-app purchases, and without offering any kind of reward, what is the point of buying something virtual?The further along you get in the game, the harder it is to beat your opponents.  You can also play against other players in the game center, or “other kingdoms” as its called in the app.  Along with increased difficulty is the amount of time it takes to upgrade items in the forest.  To harvest certain ingredients for potions or upgrade to a higher level, it can take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes or more.

Like Epic, the Fast and Furious 6 app tells a bit of a story.  You interact with well known characters from the movie, like Roman and Tej.  The app also brings in elements from previous movies – like Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift.  Within the app, you are expected to make your car drift in certain spots, as the characters did in the movie.  You earn points for shifting gears perfectly, or having a perfect launch.  You can also upgrade your car, specialize it, and more.  However, to unlock the full potential of the application, you have to buy gas for your car with in-app purchases (or wait for the app to refuel on its own).  That makes me want to see the movie even less than I already did.

But what really has me questioning these most recent movie companion apps is the Man of Steel app.  In a brilliant marketing move, the movie partnered with Kellogg to produce the app.  In order to “unlock” all of Superman’s powers – flight, strength, and heat vision – you have to find the Kellogg products with the QR codes on the back (Townhouse crackers, Poptarts, and others) and scan them.  Only then can you play with Superman’s powers.  Here is an example of the Man of Steel app:  Besides the ability to have some fun with Superman’s powers and share them with your friends, the app doesn’t quite offer much.  I see it having a very short life cycle.

man of steel

Unlike Viggle, GetGlue, and other rewards apps, I have yet to see any other benefit to many of these apps other than engagement.  If engagement is the point, then aces, they have done their job.  Other than that, I see no long term strategy to keep users engaged with the applications.  Perhaps gamification isn’t the answer to big screen debut companion applications.

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