Could Pokémon Go players become as obsessed with catching Zs as they are with catching Pikachu?
The game makers at Niantic and The Pokémon Company (a Japanese consortium between Nintendo NTDOY, -0.36% Game Freak and Creatures) have already gamified walking around by letting players (aka trainers) catch and collect the cute, imaginary pocket monsters that “appear” in the real world thanks to augmented reality technology and geolocation tracking. Traveling two, five or 10 kilometers on foot or by bike also lets players hatch eggs and level up their favorite Pokémon characters, for example. So now the next stage in the franchise’s evolution will be rewarding players for getting a good night’s sleep — by monitoring them with a sleep tracker placed next to their pillow.
“In 2016, Pokémon Go turned the simple act of walking into entertainment, making the entire world into a game. We’re about to do it again, Trainers — this time, for sleeping,” the Pokémon Company announced on Twitter Tuesday night, following a press conference in Tokyo to show off a number of new games, services and hardware.
The official announcement shared with MarketWatch continues, “Soon, Trainers will be able to wake up with Pokémon every morning with Pokémon Sleep, a mobile app from The Pokémon Company. Pokémon Sleep aims to turn sleeping into entertainment by having a player’s time spent sleeping, and the time they wake up, effect the gameplay.”
While the company hasn’t shared details about the way the app functions, or exactly what kind of rewards players will get for catching 40 winks, it did announce that a new Nintendo device, the Pokémon Go Plus Plus (yes, that is the real name, as it’s an upgrade to the Pokémon Go Plus, which runs around $24), will connect to Pokémon Sleep and launch with the app next year. The device — resembling a flattened, disk-shaped red and white Pokéball — will function like the original Plus to complement the Pokémon Go app during the day by tracking the distance a player has traveled, and alerting them to Pokémon and other in-game markers nearby. But it will also include an accelerometer to track a user’s time sleeping, which it will send to their smartphone via Bluetooth. By night, trainers put the device next to their pillows to monitor their snooze and get them to Pokémon go-to-sleep.
We could all certainly use more sleep. One third of American adults aren’t getting enough sleep, according to the CDC, and a troubling new survey from Common Sense Media finds that 70% of teens said they use their mobile device within 30 minutes of going to sleep, and more than a third of them wake up in the middle of the night and check their phones. (Most Pokémon Go players are under 30, but more adults getting into the game still represents around 30% of all players.) So encouraging players to put their phones down could help them get more shut-eye — and get Niantic and The Pokémon company a slice of the global sleep aids market, which is expected to hit $76.7 billion in 2019.
Pokémon Go will add sleep tracking.
The Pokémon Company also announced a cloud-based Pokémon Home service that will let players store and share their Pokémon across all platforms — from Pokémon Go on their phones, to Pokémon Let’s Go on the Nintendo Switch, and more. And it revealed another mobile game, Pokémon Masters, which appears to focus on teams of players siccing their Pokémon against other people’s in three-on-three battles.
Pokémon Go raked in a record $207 million during its July 2016 release, setting the Guinness World Record for most revenue grossed by a mobile game in its first month, with daily user numbers having around 28.5 million people. While those early audience numbers plummeted to around 5 million by December 2016, the game has held on to a dedicated player base, and drawn in new users, by rolling out features such as Pokémon trading, one-on-one battles and monthly community day events.
Indeed, players spent more than $65 million world-wide the game in April, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower, and the game has grossed $270 million through April in 2019, which is up 33% over the same period last year. It’s earned more than $2.45 billion overall since that initial release.
And Niantic has more on deck, as its new game “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” co-developed by Warner Bros. WB Games division is also due later this year.