Last Updated on January 24, 2023
The success of Pokemon Go has made shaken the worlds of app developers, app marketers and users. Making $14 million in its first week its impact has shone the spotlight on app development as an incredibly lucrative industry.
Certainly app development marketplace Yeeply has seen a huge rise in people publishing pitches for Augmented Reality mobile app projects on its platform (LINK TO https://en.yeeply.com/publish-project) since the release of Pokemon Go.
It seems the main barriers to success are coming up with a ground-breaking idea and raising a huge amount of investment. However I want to bust some of those myths and show you the best way to develop you own version on a shoe string.
Do you need a totally new idea?
The first myth people seem to believe is that Pokemon Go was a ground-breaking idea and to this it owes its success – in reality there were many predecessor apps that followed this model. We spoke to Juanma Zarza, the managing partner of Carbonyte, an expert in Augmented Reality and 3D development;
‘Layar, for example, is an app that adds a layer of information to the city, it has been with us for a while and it doesn’t seem to have exploded anywhere near the way Pokemon Go has. As for games, there is Invizimals, which is basically Pokémon by Sony also using AR, although based on trading cards’
Based on my own research I found an app called Ingress that could even be called the first budget Pokemon Go prototype, made by the same company, Niantic (Google). Ingress enjoyed some low level success ‘but Pokemon Go has been amazing’ agrees Zarza.
If the technological innovation of Pokemon Go is not behind its success, I argue that Niantic has spotted a lucrative gap for nostalgic millennials and it is to that that they owe such enormous success. In the internet age we have a generation of digital natives that have grown up watching the evolution of the first Nintendo consoles into the technological possibilities that smartphones have given us.
Although many of these millennials are now approaching their thirties, there is a disconnect between how they grew up and how tech-literate kids nowadays are growing up. The chance to return to the glory days of the Nintendo hype but in a far more technologically advanced setting is enormously tempting for many adults and children alike that are looking for escapism.
How much does developing your Pokemon Go cost?
So now you have your idea and your inspiration; how does Pokemon Go’s budget compare?
Augmented Reality (AR)
This is the first hurdle. When Niantic developed Pokemon Go, to the tune of $30 million, they already had a successful blueprint for Augmented Reality development through Ingress, which was itself a huge investment done over many years. However in the last few years technologies such as Unity or Microsoft AR have advanced by leaps and bounds, giving developers pre-made tools to get the work done quicker and easier than ever, reducing the strain of development costs on your budget.
The development landscape is also changing. Pre-Pokemon Go developers that had the skills or experience to develop AR games were either very few in number or charged astronomical fees. However nowadays AR development as a skillset is far more mainstream with the opportunities Pokemon Go has opened up encouraging many more developers to specialise in this field. In addition to quality design work and a back end strategy that maintains reliability, an end product like Pokemon Go in the current landscape would need an investment of at least 6 months of work which could cost upwards of 100,000 euros.
If you want a personalised up-to-date quote for high quality development we find this tool useful! Despite this enormous investment, persistent back end problems and bugs plagued the launch of Pokemon GO in Europe. However this seems to have had very little effect on download figures and it seems to beg the question, is it worth investing in top end development if the market is so fickle?
Making an MVP
If we can learn one lesson from the success of Pokemon Go it is that certainty in your product is key to its financial viability. Pokemon Go was a tried and tested technology with a branding powerhouse already 15 years in the making behind it. If you want to develop your own version I suggest playing it safe with an MVP initially to test the waters and investing more money in the marketing to build a relationship to the user similar to that of Pokemon Go.
Doing this you will be able to see the basic operation of your app as well as adapt to the market response with more flexibility. An MVP of a similar project to Pokemon Go will amount to around 20,000 euros to develop including a basic marketing and SEO strategy. This will leave you with enough budget to further invest in your user outreach and maintenance.
Of course if you are smart about it, tapping into a market such as nostalgic millennials can be free and will certainly be your biggest marketing asset!
Legality of Cloning.
Of course this begs the question of whether it is legal to benefit from someone else’s hard work and idea. In short the answer is yes, but it depends due to the complicated nature of Copy and Patent laws especially if the original and clone are made in different countries.
Whilst it is impossible to copyright an idea as such, if you take the source code or directly copy logos, names or fonts this will land you in legal difficulties, which could see any potential revenue eaten up by years of legal fees at the very least. Some clone developers assess the likelihood of the original developer actually suing them based on whether they are international or have a lot of financial resources, however this is unimaginative and very risky!
In the case of Pokemon Go, if a company like Niantic can spend $30 million dollars on a development project it is far more likely that their in –house legal team will be prepared to spend hundreds of thousands ensuring an example is made of your attempts to benefit from their idea. Therefore I would not advise directly ripping off Pokemon Go!
Even if the company does not sue you, if your MVP game is too similar you will always be remembered as the low quality, less successful version and your marketing will suffer long term. This has been the case with Angry Bird clone, Flappy Bird, whose Vietnamese developer pulled it from the app store due to the high level of criticism around its similarity and low quality once the initial hype died down.
Do all artists steal?
However as in all creative sectors no art exists in a vacuum, so if your intention is to advance a pre-existing idea with better graphics or a clever marketing strategy, this can be seen as a positive innovative advancement rather than a way of cutting corners and making fast money.
Take Candy Crush for example, it was certainly not the first Match 3 game of its kind but thanks to its cunning association with Facebook as it was taking off, its marketing strategy has cemented it into all of our minds as one of the most successful games in the history of game development.
To conclude, if your MVP game is being made to capitalize on an existing market or genre, like for example millennial nostalgia for ‘90s console games, this seems ethically and legally sound and could set you up for long term success. However there is a big difference between this approach and stealing a concept and misleading the public, your conscience should tell you which this is and if it doesn’t a legal bill might!