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Pokémon Not a Go For Some Consumers

Pokémon GO may not be as universally popular with consumers as one would think, given how the game has been eating up media headlines. The hot augmented reality game, co-published by Niantic Inc. and the Pokemon Co., appears to have detractors as well.

According to a report from Nielsen Mobile Game Tracking released Thursday this week, among consumers who were aware of Pokémon GO in the July 4th week leading to the title’s launch, 60% said they were interested in downloading the game, while 22% also said they “definitely would not,” a notch more adamant than the survey’s option of “probably would not.”  The 22% rate ranks among the top third of rejection rates for all game titles tracked by Nielsen, said Nicole Pike, Director of Client Consulting for Nielsen Games. What’s interesting, Pike said in an interview with Forbes, is that the survey took place July 4th—two days before Pokémon GO even launched. 

Though “the game generates above average interest and uniqueness, rejection levels leading into launch week were also high … suggesting the game is popular but also polarizing,” according to the Nielsen. Pike said Nielsen describes a game as “polarizing” whenever the title has above average acceptance and rejection rates.

There has been plenty of instances social of antipathy towards Pokémon GO on social media to give anecdotal credence to Nielsen’s early findings.

Whether these are the comments of a few or the sentiment of many remains to be seen.

Still, the antipathy is not uncommon in consumer behavior. An article in Discover Magazine that delves into the psychology of Pokémon GO haters sheds good insight into the matter, with lessons that can extend beyond the game and into other hot consumer trends.

“There’s a bifurcation when there’s something as popular as this game,” Markus Giesler, a professor of marketing at the Schulich School of Business at York University, told Discover, “you cannot not have an opinion.”

Giesler is co-author of a 2010 study that puts forward the notion of “consumer moralism.” In it, Giesler and his fellow researchers posit that people can superimpose their moral beliefs on certain products, creating an us-versus-them narrative, as a way to reinforce their own values and identities.

The study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research by Oxford University Press, concludes that ”evoking the morality play myth produces identities that are dialectically linked and animated by adversarial relations among ideologically opposed consumers. Through this play of moral protagonism, consumers imbue their consumption practices and identity-relevant brands with sacralized meanings…and existentially anchor their consumer identities in a system of ideological beliefs that are mythically canonized as being inherently virtuous.”

Will the vitriol expressed on social media and elsewhere about Pokémon GO have an effect on the title’s revenue? Possibly, but maybe not for the worst, if one subscribes to the notion that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

“Anecdotally, one of the main factors of success is awareness,” Pike said. “The fact that Pokémon GO is getting both positive and negative attention is a strong indication that it has high awareness and will likely be successful. The discussion brings in more people to consider the game.”

Markus Giesler

York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Canada

Markus Giesler draws on concepts from economics, technology studies, and sociology to inform his research in marketing. He determines how ideas and things (products, services, experiences, technological innovations, intellectual property, brands, etc.) are made valuable over time, with research focused on improving marketing strategy through an understanding of markets as evolving social systems. Giesler's research has been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the European Research Council (ERC) and published in top-tier academic journals such as the Journal of Consumer Research and the Journal of Marketing. Giesler has an extensive entertainment industry background. He founded his own record label at age 17 and has worked in various production and marketing responsibilities for over a decade. He lives in Toronto, Canada.