Research Explains the Pokémon Go Hype

Why do people play a mobile Augmented Reality Game in which they can catch virtual creatures? In summer 2016, but still now, we saw and still see many people walking on the streets playing Pokémon Go. While newspapers and other mass media have widely discussed the reasons, academic research – so far – has not yet given a profound and empirically validated answer as to why this game made it to the top of the download charts. With my colleagues Alexander Rossmann from Germany and M. Claudia tom Dieck from England, I co-authored an empirical Pokémon Go Research study in which we assessed this phenomenon. In particular, we wanted to answer the following questions:

  • What drives consumers’ attitude towards Pokémon Go? In other words, why do or don’t they like it?
  • What drives consumers’ intention to continue playing Pokémon Go? This might sound like an identical question as before, but people often do things independently from how much they like it.
  • What drives consumers’ intention to spend money for in-app purchases? This is relevant, since Pokémon Go, as well as many other games, are based on a freemium pricing model. Thus, game developers need to understand how to make people spend money in the apps.

Results of a Pokémon Go Research

Drawing up on ‘Uses and Gratification Theory” (U&GT) and other media and technology theories, we proposed a comprehensive conceptual model and tested it on more than 600 people.. Data was collected in Germany and analyzed using structural equation modeling (Mplus). We found a number of interesting drivers and barriers to Pokémon Go playing. The Pokémon Go Research paper has been accepted for publication in Computers in Human Behavior, a peer-reviewed journal.

Pokémon Go Research AR Results



It is probably not surprising that people play Pokémon Go because it is fun and the findings show that people who enjoy it, like the game more. Consequently, this leads to the intention to play the game in the future, which is not surprising.

The “Flow” of Pokémon Go

Flow is an interesting concept from psychology. Per definition, as we outline in the paper, the term flow is used to “describe a state of mind sometimes experienced by people who are deeply involved in an activity. For example, athletes often experience a state of ‘flow’ by being completely and totally immersed and captivated in it and do not get distracted by anything else around them. Similar experiences are reported by people from their work, gaming or other hobbies. When in flow, time may seem to stand still and nothing else seems to matter. Flow may not last for a long time on any particular occasion, but it may come and go over time. Typically, flow is described as an enjoyable and pleasurable experience.” Our overall conclusion from this study is that flow matters! People who experience flow like the game more and are more willing to spend money in in-app purchases..


Pokémon Go can activate childhood associations. As we know from won experiences, we often perceive things in the past as better (“the good old days”). Thus, when activating childhood associations, many of these positive things pop up. This “popping up’ in psychology is called ‘activated’. Our research shows that nostalgic associations are being activated while playing Pokémon Go and thus, can increase attitudes.

Physical Activity

Another reason why people like Pokemon Go is because it is linked to physical activity. Physical activity often leads to the release of endorphins. These neuropeptides create a feeling of euphoria, also known as ‘runner’s high’. Medical scholars have shown that even low levels of activity can lead to significant improvements in psychological well-being and other positive outcomes – and so does probably Pokémon Go.

Social Norms

It is a widely replicated finding that people’s behavior is influenced by other people. Since people seek for social conformity, they are strongly influenced by what they believe their friends and family expect them to do. This is also true for Pokémon Go, and particularly relevant since playing Pokémon Go is visible to other people. Finding show that social norms drive intended behavior (i.e. playing in the future and spending money in the in-app shop), but not attitude. That is, peer pressure can make people play the game more intensely and motivate them to spend money, even if people do not like playing the game that much.


Playing Pokémon Go was, and still is, a controversial hobby. Some people like it while others do not. Not surprisingly, people who believe that playing Pokémon Go is associated with a positive (vs. negative) image react more (vs. less) positively towards Pokemon Go: They like it more, they intent to play it in the future, and they are more willing to shop in the in-app store.

Socializing (doesn’t matter)

People love socializing and Pokémon Go could be a good means to do so. Media reported of masses of people that played Pokémon Go in groups. However, a mean of 3.4 on a scale from 1 to 7 indicates that socializing is not a major gratification. In addition, we did not detect any significant effects on any of our three dependent variables. Therefore, findings of our Pokémon Go research suggest that socializing with other gamers is not particularly relevant for Pokémon Go.

Physical Risks

Getting hit by a car because of crossing a street is a realistic risk. This is not surprising, as looking on a screen might distract users. But does it impact consumers? Do they care? Our research result show that users incorporate this risk only marginally into their decision making.

Data Privacy Risks (doesn’t matter)

Pokémon Go, as well as many other apps, are collecting lots of user data. Newspapers and other media have criticized potential privacy leaks of Pokemon Go. However, results indicate that consumers do not incorporate data privacy aspects into their decision-making.


Pokémon Go Research: Does Liking generate Dollars?

Is Liking a good measure of financial success? Common sense would argue that people who like playing Pokémon Go more are also more likely to spend money in in-app purchases. Results indicate that this is not the case – in-app purchases and user evaluations of the game are independent from each other. This is an important finding since it indicates that user evaluations of a game might not be a good indicator for financial performance.

Drivers of in-app purchases

Research shows: Attitude is a bad predictor of in-app purchases for Pokémon Go


Citation and further links

  • MMU Creative AR VR Hub
  • Rauschnabel, P.A.; Rossmann, A.; tom Dieck, C.M. (2017) An Adoption Framework for Mobile Augmented Reality Games: The Case of Pokémon Go. Computers in Human Behavior, forthcoming / preprint: LINK
  • Aternative link (for academic purposes only):

Download AR research



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