Why is Pokemon Go so popular? Here's a theory

Is Pokemon Go's refusal to tell players how the game is played actually part of its appeal? Luke Westaway argues exactly that.

Luke Westaway Senior editor
Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.
Luke Westaway
2 min read
Watch this: Why Pokemon Go is so popular

How do gyms work? Does throwing a curveball make a catch more likely? Should I be transferring my duplicates? These and many other questions will race through the mind of every new Pokemon Go player. But is the game's striking lack of introduction to its many mechanics and mysteries actually the secret to its success? I reckon so.

It's all about a sense of community. The first place I turned when Pokemon Go got confusing (about 5 minutes after I installed the app) was Google. Online I could see what those ahead of the curve were saying about the game, and the next step was to start questioning my fellow players. Colleagues, friends and family alike were grilled for information on the "how" and the "why" of Pokemon Go, and I shared the nuggets of info I'd picked up along the way.

Collecting that info on how the game is played turned out to be as vital as collecting the Pokemon themselves. You teach me, and I'll teach you.

Whether developer Niantic intended the game to be so aloof or whether it just didn't have time to program any proper tutorial screens, I don't know. But what I do know is this: From that sharing of tips, tricks, rumours and urban myths emerges a gaming experience with more sense of community than anything I've seen in years. It's like being back on the playground, clutching a dog-eared magazine full of cheat codes and insisting that no, my older cousin definitely did catch a Mew behind that truck.

From lunchtime jaunts to a nearby lure to the person in the street who tipped London's Trafalgar Square as a good spot for rare 'mons, Pokemon Go has given rise to more real-world interaction than any game I've played in years. It's both nostalgic and fresh, and that, I believe, is the secret to Pokemon Go's enormous success. Well, that and Pikachu.

Humans of Pokemon Go

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