"Pokemon Go," "Ready Player One," and What They Remind Us About Brand Power

By Markets Fool.com

It's mailbag time again on theRule Breaker Investingpodcast, and there are plenty of great questions forMotley Fool co-founder David Gardner. In this segment, David takes a question from someone he knows very well, concerning the craze forPokemon Go.

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A transcript follows the video.

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This podcast was recorded on July 27, 2016.

David Gardner: The next one comes from -- oh, look. It's from me. Oh, I wrote myself a question. "David, do you see any similarities between Pokemon Go and the book Ready Player One?"

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Well, first of all, great question. I'm glad you asked, David, and yeah, I do actually want to mention a few things about it. Certainly, Pokemon Go has taken the world by storm over these last several weeks. On a point of extreme nerdiness, I was there, day one, downloading it. In fact, on the app it says when you came to the game, so I guess I get small niche geek credit for having it the very first day. I think July 7 is when I joined the game, so I'm not one of those who showed up two weeks later, hearing it was a big thing.

I am a gamer, as we've established. I do enjoy following games. I've played the game some. It's an OK game. It's more of a phenomenon -- it's a worldwide phenomenon. But I did think some about the book Ready Player One, which we've talked about on this podcast, as I think about Pokemon Go, because one clear similarity is that both of them -- the real-world Pokemon Go and the not-real world of Ready Player One -- the whole world is playing a game. Not everybody, but basically one game is dominating culture.

In Ready Player One, it is the game that has been built by the deceased billionaire, the Bill Gates-like figure who's left all his money in Easter eggs somewhere around the massively multiplayer online game that everybody's playing on Earth at the time. And Pokemon Go has that same dynamic, and I think this makes sense. There are network effects in place in these things.

Once you hear that all your friends are playing something, well, you're a friend, too, so you're going to join and you're going to play. And once you start reading that the whole country or the whole world is playing something, then a lot of people who would not have played it start to play it -- we're all social creatures -- just to be in the game. Just to be conversant. To be able to interact. To be relevant. So that's one clear similarity of Pokemon Go.

In some ways, it's doing what Ernie Cline, the author of Ready Player One, was conceiving of when he wrote his book some years ago. Now, whether Pokemon Go has long-term viability -- whether it has legs -- is a separate question, but I clearly see that similarity between them, and I think it's kind of phenomenal, in a way, that Cline kind of foresaw that that would happen. And you can see why it would -- a big, online game with network effects built in.

I will say that the game has been fun. I think what's special about it is it was built over the course of, really, a decade or so by Niantic Labs, which is the Google-owned spinoff. It's a separate company that was playing its own game -- that had built a game like this, using things like Google Maps, which had been built up over the years. So a lot of these elements -- I think the name of the game was Ingress -- that Niantic had developed.

So Pokemon Go was built on the bones of really important innovations that had occurred over the last decade, but added the magic fairy dust of intellectual property that the whole world knew. That a lot of people had grown up with. And when you add that in, that's why I think you see something so phenomenally successful relative to what preceded it.

So it will be interesting. I wouldn't be a buyer of Nintendo stock, which has, as of this podcast anyway, more than doubled in just about 10 days, becoming briefly a larger company than Sony. But at the same time, I don't think we should undercredit Nintendo for what it's done.

What it's proven is that it has extremely relevant intellectual property, and beyond just Pokemon, certainly we can think about things like Mario and other -- Link and Zelda. All of the different Nintendo brands and intellectual property. I think the world has been reminded that these things are sometimes more valuable than we were thinking. So some of that big run-up in Nintendo stock, I think, is just a recognition that probably the world was underpricing that intellectual property until Pokemon Go showed up and maybe, temporarily anyway, caused it to become somewhat overpriced as well.

And before I go to my last one, I do want to mention a couple extra things about Pokemon Go, which I think are pretty cool. One is the game is largely built on, of course, the real-world map of our lives, but it's built on landmarks that are around you -- in your neighborhood, or wherever the place is that you're visiting. The way to acquire more items is usually to find that piece of sculpture in the airport, or that statue that you keep walking past on your way to work and forgotten it's there. Those are the kinds of landmarks that the game keys into.

Another aspect of it, and consistent with that, is that idea that you're out and active in the world around you. You're rewarded for walking 10K. With the app open, you can start doing more stuff. So really half of the story of Pokemon Go isn't Pokemon. It's the idea of being out in an augmented reality, where you are just, "Oh, that's who designed that sculpture," or, "Oh, that's how long that plaque has been there." It is awakening you to the world that you're sometimes rushing by all the time and showing you some of the history of it and encouraging you to walk out, and look at it, and be active. I think that's pretty cool.

David Gardner has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.