Uses and gratifications in Pokémon Go: Why do people play mobile location-based augmented reality games?

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Launched in the USA on 6 July 2016 (and currently available in over 130 countries), Pokémon Go is a free-to-play/freemium mobile game based on a Japanese transmedia franchise and built on a pre-existing mobile game platform by Niantic, Inc. During the first two months of its launch, the game was downloaded more than 500 million times [20]. That year, Pokémon Go won the titles of “best mobile/handheld game,” as well as “best family game” [23]. Early statistics by Niantic Labs state that since the launch of the game, Pokémon Go players have collectively walked over 8.7 billion kilometers and caught 88 billion Pokémons [17]. The popularity of Pokémon Go is also evident in the fact that the term “Pokémon Go” was the leading search term in the recently published Google search trends 2016 [4]. Beyond being a location-based game (LBG), Pokémon Go and others like it can also be classified as augmented reality games (ARGs), games that are particularly focused on overlaying digital content onto everyday surroundings. Common to these games and activities is that they create hybrid spaces that challenge the dichotomy of the physical and the digital; spaces that “merge the physical and the digital in a social environment created by the mobility of users connected via mobile technology devices”[3].

While there has been a remarkable amount of research on players, player experiences, and the gratifications they derive from games (e.g.[1][2][5][6][7][8][9][13][18][19][22]), as well as on player types and orientations [10][14][21][24], LBGs and ARGs are a novel and multifaceted development, not only in the games space but also culturally. As such they can be seen to afford several kinds of experiences and gratifications for their users that are not necessarily found in more traditional forms of games or media, and especially not in such combinations. These include experiences such as outdoor adventures, communal activities, health benefits, and gratifications, which relate to games in general. Also, having recently broken through to a more mainstream audience with the success of Pokémon Go, these games and their players provide a culturally and historically opportune vector for closer study. Moreover, Pokémon Go is also a free-to-play game implying that it generates revenues mainly through the sales of in-game content and virtual goods (refer e.g. [11][12][15][16]).

All of these above-mentioned aspects prompt interesting and relevant research questions as to what gratifications people derive from ARGs/LBGs (such as Pokémon Go) and which gratifications lead to more active playing and purchasing behavior in these new forms of games. Therefore, in this study, we investigate the relationships between the gratifications people derive from alternate reality games (Pokémon Go), and their intentions to continue playing and spending money in them. To investigate this, we employ data gathered among players of Pokémon Go.


In recent years, augmented reality games (ARGs) such as Pokémon Go have become increasingly popular. These games not only afford a novel gaming experience but also have the potential to alter how players view their physical realities. In addition to the common experiences and gratifications people derive from games, (location-based) ARGs can afford, for example outdoor adventures, communal activities, and health benefits, but also create problems stemming from, for example privacy concerns and poor usability. This raises some important research questions as to what drives people to use these new applications, and why they may be willing to spend money on the content sold within them. In this study, we investigate the various gratifications people derive from ARGs (Pokémon Go) and the relationship of these gratifications with the players’ intentions to continue playing and spending money on them. We employ data drawn from players of Pokémon Go (N = 1190) gathered through an online survey. The results indicate that game enjoyment, outdoor activity, ease of use, challenge, and nostalgia are positively associated with intentions to reuse (ITR), meanwhile outdoor activity, challenge, competition, socializing, nostalgia and ITR are associated with in-app purchase intentions (IPI). In contrast with our expectations, privacy concerns or trendiness were not associated with reuse intentions or IPI.

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Citation: Hamari, J., Malik, A., Koski, J., & Johri, A. (2018). Uses and Gratifications of Pokémon Go: Why do People Play Mobile Location-Based Augmented Reality Games? International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction.



Juho Hamari

Aqdas Malik

Johannes Koski

Aditya Johri



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