Pokémon Go is taking over the world, and that’s not hyperbole. The game was released last Wednesday and since that time, it has become the top downloaded free app on both Apple and Android stores, is on more phones than Tinder, and is close to having the same number of daily users as Twitter. The app is so popular that servers have failed a few times under the volume of new accounts.

Pokémon Go has been credited with helping some people who suffer with depression and social anxiety, it’s helped increase traffic and sales for restaurants and small businesses, and it even has players exploring and learning about our national parks and monuments. So what exactly is this sorcery called Pokémon Go?

It’s a game developed by Niantic with the goal of getting people together in real life as they try to catch imaginary Pokémon. CEO John Hanke told Business Insider that the game is “intended to facilitate the real-life stuff. The reward is the encouragement and opportunity to go out and have new experiences.” And it’s working — just check out this massive gathering in California.

There are clear implications for the gaming world, but I think social media should sit up and listen too. While Pokémon Go is technically a game, it has a lot in common with our favorite social media platforms. Players can collect followers (in addition to Pokémon), they can chat, share photos and check-in with their real-life locations. Sound familiar? It’s like Facebook, Snap Chat and Foursquare collided with little monsters thrown in for good measure.

The enthusiastic embrace of the game is proof that people are hungry for a new way to communicate, to form community and be entertained. So what does this mean for social media? I don’t have the answers, but I’m intrigued by the question and am eager to see what innovative designers make of this phenomenon.

Pokémon Go’s lasting legacy could be a new category of social media that gets us to combine our screen time with real-life interaction, while building true community. That would be an app worth downloading.

In the meantime, there are Pokémon to catch. Has anyone seen a Pikachu?


Image credit: StartupStockPhotos