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Lessons from Pokémon Go's massive success

By Nauman Noor, Director, PwC Strategy&

This feature was produced by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, and does not reflect the opinions or point of view of Vox Media or Vox Creative. Vox Media editorial staff was not involved in the creation or production of this content.

The overnight rise of Pokémon Go was nothing short of spectacular: Within a week of the game's launch, it was installed by more than 10 percent of Android users, and 6 percent of the user base was active. Moreover, the daily usage average of 43 minutes bests the more popular messaging apps.

With that unheard-of growth, however, come challenges in scaling to match demand.

Even though Niantic, the company behind Pokémon Go, leverages Google's cloud capabilities, its huge user base and ongoing growth were taxing the system. Users had trouble logging in, Niantic had to pause its international rollout, and there were interim outages although avid users found unofficial workarounds to play the game in locations where it was not available.

Yet the glitches didn't last long. As soon as players began experiencing difficulties, Niantic was able to leverage a second cloud provider to correct the problem within 24 hours. Though there are users who may be disappointed by the bumpiness of the experience, Niantic's forward thinking mitigated the impact of such issues on longer-term retention rates and engagement.

After all, reliable, instant gratification is key to making a game go viral. Without advanced planning to place the game on a backup cloud, Pokémon Go's global growth would have been a No Go.

three scaling takeaways

In an ever-connected world, where user experience and engagement is essential to growth, organizations cannot take infrastructure and availability for granted. Pokémon Go provides these lessons for large-scale deployments:

1.    Leverage cloud for business models where there is uncertainty around the uptake and subsequent demand.

2.    Use instrumentation on the end points (e.g., mobile app) to help detect anomalies and understand end-user engagement. It provides early warning of issues, enabling you to take mitigating actions.

3.    Retain two or more cloud providers in case one of them has challenges scaling as fast as needed.

Pokémon Go is operating at a level of capacity that most enterprises won't ever see or expect. But cloud capacity issues will increasingly arise as organizations grow more sophisticated in their use of technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things, which require muscular data-crunching power.

The sky is not the limit when it comes to infrastructure. If you want to scale, you have to plan accordingly.

Follow @naumannoor on Twitter.

© 2016 PwC. All rights reserved. PwC refers to the US member firm or one of its subsidiaries or affiliates, and may sometimes refer to the PwC network. Each member firm is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure for further details. This content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.

This feature was produced by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, and does not reflect the opinions or point of view of Vox Media or Vox Creative. Vox Media editorial staff was not involved in the creation or production of this content.


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