Nailing It

I saw dozens of pitches for what was essentially YouTube between 1998 and 2005. But when YouTube launched, it was pretty clear pretty quickly that they had nailed it and nobody else before them had.

I saw way more pitches for what was essentially Pokemon Go between the arrival of the iPhone and now. But when my daughter told me to download Pokemon Go and play it, I immediately realized that they had nailed something that nobody had before them

AVC regular LIAD tweeted this today:

You are not alone LIAD.

I recall seeing John Geraci‘s ITP senior thesis project in 2005 which was a web version of this idea powered by Google Maps, and understanding that we all want to interact with interactive media in the real world.

I’ve always loved the idea that we could do a massively public treasure hunt together using the web and mobile. But it took over ten years since I first saw this idea to have it really happen.

It made me smile when Emily told me to download it and I am still smiling days later. And I have a gym right outside my front door.

gym on W side hway

#Games#mobile#Uncategorized#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. kenberger

    I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen something go so viral, so quickly. In the space of about 1 day, this Pokemon Go thing has taken over my social media feeds.

    1. fredwilson

      are you playing it?

      1. kenberger

        I haven’t even gotten a chance to download it yet!I’ve never seen this happen before that i hadn’t even heard of something, much less tried it, before it took over my feeds. Remarkable.

        1. creative group

          kenberger:Your valuable time can be used more productively.(Shouting at parents to be parents and not revert to the Nintendo and Sega Genesis days. STOP IT PEOPLE)

      2. creative group

        Fred:Stop encouraging it…..

        1. ShanaC


          1. creative group

            ShanaC:Why is the following thread of yours continue to populate our inbox after deletion of ten times and will not stop?———————————

          2. ShanaC

            No idea

    2. LE

      Same. Heard about it last night from my stepkids who were playing it last night. Then a few hours later I ran into their room because I saw a story about how someone burglarized someone because of the Geo location feature.

    3. Dan Moore

      Not just my news feeds! I was biking across the city yesterday and through a park and saw a bunch of folks walking heads down on the bike path. Not texting or Facebooking of Snapchatting, but playing Pokemon Go.I do wonder about staying power, but time will tell.

      1. Jess Bachman

        Well, Pokemon Go will come and.. go.. but its definitely paved the way for a flood of AR games that you will see in the app store in the next few months.

    4. pointsnfigures

      100% agree with that statement.

    5. kenberger

      …but most fascinatingly of all, here all of us AVC’ers are, breathlessly continuing the promotion of this product for them for free, some not having even seen the damn thing yet !!Now THAT’s the thing to pay attention to and learn from.

      1. creative group

        kenberger:False statement! The crazy few of you who forgot your adults with a life and responsibilities are falling victim to a craze you actually can control. Stop it already.

  2. Christopher Herbert

    Hanke’s team at Niantic built Ingress first. Ingress players contributed most/all the info on portals/gyms and also gave a ton of play data to Niantic. I love Ingress but it is hard to learn and even though you can find it just about anywhere in the world (except most of Africa), it never caught on in numbers like Pokemon Go. Very excited for the Niantic team – great to see them stick to their passion for real world games that get you off the couch, and finally find big time success. Lots of hard work and constant experimentation to get there…

    1. falicon

      When anyone digs deep enough, this is *always* the story behind overnight success. Thanks for sharing it!

    2. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Yup, I immediately thought of Ingress when Pokeman Go came out. It helps to have a massive brand pushing it. But I love it for getting folks out walking 🙂

    3. Dan G

      after 3 and a half years, I finally reached level 16 in Ingress , the same weekend I started playing PoGo. oh boi

  3. Eric Friedman

    I have never seen anything quite like it – even the early AR games/plans. Another interesting component here is the years that were spent building Ingress, the game that made all this possible. Quite possibly the 6 years of blood sweat and tears that made this “overnight” success a reality. Its like the ultimate Karate Kid/Mr Miyagi move. Seeing someone just outside playing was the tipping point for me that something can get bigger faster than before (didn’t think it was possible!) and now seeing the usage charts on Android and Twitter this thing is big. PS leveling up slowly 🙂

    1. awaldstein

      Yup scale in size and speed is off the charts.Back when when I was the bundled publisher for blockbusters like Doom from Id and others, these numbers we see today were not even a dream.

  4. Joe Lazarus

    Yep, I pitched a similar game concept internally at a mobile game studio where I used to work. After playing PokemonGo a bit the last few days, I quickly realized they nailed it in important ways that we probably would have missed.

    1. ShanaC

      Such as?

  5. johndodds

    I remember a drizzly London evening in the days before smartphones when I tried out a similar thing on the banks of the Thames. I think it was an IBM experiment. They certainly hadn’t nailed it.

    1. ShanaC

      art project run in conjunction with ibm

      1. johndodds

        Interesting. Were you there? It wa spart of an evening run out of the Southbank Centre – not sure I’d have seen it as an art project but maybe you have inside information on it? And there’s always the chance that I’m misremembering IBM’s involvement. I do remember headsets and rain and vacant lots.

        1. ShanaC

          No. I had to do research in the area for my ba, and both the artists and the project appeared as part of the research

          1. johndodds

            Amazing. What a small world.

  6. sigmaalgebra

    Okay, “nailing it”, HOW to do that? Specifically, what are the reasonably doable criteria sufficient for success that a development project can have in mind and on their TODO list early in their project?Sure, with enough eager players, a game can be a successful project.But can guess that there may be thousands of game developers looking for success that may be had by no more than a few if only because people don’t want hundreds of games or even aps on their favorite mobile device and virality effects can support at most just a few aps or games.But for a game developer, at the beginning of designing the game and writing the code, how to know if the project will be successful?Or just what is it about a game that will please the users well enough for the game to be successful? That is, what are the reasonably doable sufficient criteria?Answering that question would seem like the same or more difficult than predicting what movies will be successful this summer, what young women’s fashion frock will be successful, what new item on the McDonald’s, Burger King, or Pizza Hut menu will be successful, etc.That is, what the heck are the criteria for “nailing it” that the project can have in mind at the beginning of the work?It appears that for some projects, some people really do know in advance: E.g., apparently both Donald Trump and his wife Melania knew before Donald announced for POTUS that he would win the primary. Somehow they knew. And, of course, at the beginning of the primaries, of the 17 candidates, only one could really know!But, narrower, just for an information technology project, how to know?For my startup, I believe I have a fairly good handle on doable criteria for success, but my criteria don’t apply to winning the Republican primary or being successful with a new fast food item, fashion frock, summer movie, or mobile device game.How to know what are the criteria sufficient for success?Maybe a development team would like to know what the heck to do to nail it?

    1. sigmaalgebra

      Okay, I found a first cut answer to my questions:As athttp://www.businessinsider….is in partLast week, Nintendo and Niantic brought out “Pokémon Go,”So, Nintendo and Niantic have a lot of experience in developing games.Due to the explosive virality of Pokémon Go in just the last few days, apparently they are also good at new product publicity and launching.So, for the sufficient criteria for success of a game app, those two companies have a lot of experience to draw on and, from that experience, good evidence of the criteria.E.g., as inhttp://static6.businessinsi…apparently they are also good at drawing cute cartoons.In particular, the background of Pokémon Go is a long way from just two guys in a garage typing in code.

      1. falicon

        correct. +100

        1. sigmaalgebra

          Also, apparently part of how the game went viral so quickly and strongly is the strong Pokémon brand and large user base.

  7. LE

    As a parent of a 12 and 14-year-old after I saw this story last night they won’t be playing the game:…On the other hand this type of publicity will bring in more positive users then negative i.e. parents who ban it.

  8. awaldstein

    Nothing like the power of entertainment.Most interesting to me is the redefinition of what viral and scale means today. Exponentially larger that previous generations on more primitive platforms.

  9. Eric Satz

    Our friends never talk technology. Saturday night at dinner they couldn’t stop talkin’ Pokemon go. Watchin’ your kids sit in front of Xbox for hours can drive YOU nuts. Watching them break out the bikes they haven’t touched in 2 years, priceless.

  10. Sebastien Latapie

    There’s definitely a nostalgia component contributing to the popularity of this game. Loving this game right now, and also love seeing other people in the street playing it.

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, pokemon was the game the mobile generation played on their game boys back when they were kids

      1. ShanaC

        girls played it too – it was a very safe game.

      2. Sebastien Latapie

        Myself included 🙂

  11. ShanaC

    I need to try this game. Though I also need to make sure I don’t cross the street with my head looking at the phoneAlso, Frederick? Your given name is Frederick and you go by Fred? I never knew that.

    1. fredwilson

      yupi always am able to get fredwilson when i try a new service.but not this timethe early bird gets the worm

      1. kenberger

        I’ve also learned that the early bird tends to get the AVC comments worm.My previous comment here is racking up a respectable Like count, I feel like it’s largely because it was the first comment today. Normally I’m quite late to joining the comments here.

        1. falicon

          timing + quality.You always have the quality factor, but come late in the day and you miss most of the crowd that bothers with ‘likes’…but rest assured, your comments are consistently top-notch (regardless of the ‘likes’ love). 🙂

          1. kenberger

            AWWWW! That makes my day, and reminds me how gratifying it is to be a member of Fred’s bar. Thanks!Timing + Quality is surely a metaphor for much of life.(too bad almost no one will see this note, given the point we’re making here 😉 )

          2. falicon


      2. Twain Twain

        AntimatterCyclone was the name I wanted for my character with the blue hair. Had to settle for Antimatter8.(Antimatter being most expensive material in Universe.)Spent w/e in Big Sur, Carmel and watching SF Symphony Orchestra so was “real-worlding” and offline. Didn’t download PGo til last night and my ankle’s injured so haven’t been able to roam and hunt Pokemon in the way I’d like.

      3. ShanaC

        They are super viral. Like crazy viral.If it helps, I couldn’t get Shana or ShanaC – I got ShanaLC

    2. creative group


  12. pointsnfigures

    Geez, I hope there isn’t a Pokemon Go Movie. My wife and I took our kids to the Pokemon Movie back in the late 90s. After the opening credits, she looked at me and said, “you have to take one for the team. I have better things to do.” It’s the single worst kids movie I have seen.

    1. bsoist

      I know what she means “taking one for the team” – I went to see Independence Day: Resurgence with my wife yesterday.

      1. creative group

        bsoist:Justification for supporting the Independent video vendor on your local transit. Independence Day was one of the worst acting ever. In the mode of Ben Affleck & Tom Cruz.

  13. creative group

    Contributors:Pokemon Go may have nailed it. But that is or will never be in our investment or entertainment view.Gathering thoughts about the disconnect with the comments of former Mayor Guliani on Sundays CBS Face The Nation, who is credited with reducing the crime in New York City during his Mayoral term but not credited with assisting one of the most notorious drug dealers in the country that preyed on the black community injecting heroin in it regain his freedom from life sentences. (Nicky Barnes who helped shape Guliani’s career when a prosecutor).Can’t discount some valid points Guliani made but his apparent disconnect thinking the black communities parents should somehow magically know their child will be criminals or need to respect the Police but not know their Civil and Constitutional rights when encounters with Police .(All parents require the government to arrest and jail all murders, thief’s, etc. in and out of their community). The insane response to Giuliani’s tirade would be that our white parents should have a talk with their children before they engage in mass murder shootings at elementary schools, colleges, movie theaters, priest pedophiles, serial killings, etc. (Would be irrational to even possess this thought) (Would it not?)The 800,000 plus Police Officers do their difficult job. It is the Giuliani’s and Union Representatives who double down on the few bad apples and fade silently when they are convicted of wrong doing. Both stake holders (Police and Communities effected should allow the Justice system to process the incidents) But without public outcry and videos how many of these incidents would even be viewed the same? How many other incidents not videoed go justified? How long has these shootings not videoed been occurring?

  14. michaelbigger

    Would love to hear from Fred the Why is that?

  15. Sebastien Latapie

    Niantic, the developer, also learned a lot from their experience building the game Ingress – another contributing factor to them nailing it.

  16. Ana Milicevic

    There’s always a certain sense of pride you feel when you see an idea you care about done well — even if you weren’t the one to directly make it happen. Plus it gives you carte blanche to revisit that idea: I couldn’t sleep last night thinking of all the different layers of awesome improvements they could now build on top (e.g. different activities hatch different eggs, time-sensitive eggs and creatures, specific interactions w/ physical space unlocked by player level, etc).Go Niantic!

  17. falicon

    I think we’ve all made this pitch at some point (mine was in ’99 as a part of <kpe> and it was meant as a fun way to help generate foot traffic to physical stores/locations).Tying it to a large and successful brand or game (Pokemon!) was always going to be a big part of the “success” factor. Ensured that even a bad version of this idea/game would have been pretty popular (but glad to see they didn’t just settle!).

  18. kevando

    And the enormous pre-existing audience?

  19. jason wright

    Life Go still has tech, sexy investments, sexy success, nailing it…… all about anthropology.

    1. Lawrence Brass

      Yes, people want to have fun.Gathering virtual goods might be the way to distribute minimum income in the future.

  20. Lawrence Brass

    Pokémon is such a strong brand, I wonder if this is another sign of Japanese resurgence.

  21. TeddyBeingTeddy

    Fred did you buy any Nintendo stock when you saw the app?

  22. LE

    Last night my stepkids (sd and ss) said it was “to hard”. But when I asked again this AM I found out the reason was the map granularity wasn’t enough since they were in the house at the time even though my sd managed to get something by accident she said. She was planning on playing it on the bus to camp this morning, as was my step son, and on the walk to the bus. [1] My ss said he was playing it in the car on the 2 hour ride home last night. So in that case the geolocation was fine as we were traveling. He said he had heard about it for a few days from friends but then his dad told him to download because he was playing it (their father is a big game player). Ages 12 and 14.Seems to me (as others have noted) that this will flame out if it’s not enhanced and changed. Also it’s dangerous to walk around with your head in a game. Especially for kids.I expect to watch the NBC Nightly News and see this featured tonight. They will highlight the negatives (crime story that is going around) which dovetails perfectly with the excitement and newness. It’s a perfect news story as long as there aren’t any other shootings. I could easily write that story.

  23. Scott Lancet

    I think Pokemon Go is at the center of an on-demand universe being built around it. Media, security, marketing, sales, hell even the cardboard POP’s they will be putting in every retailer to push their Pokemon companion wacth/gadget! The only type of labor model that can match the speed of Pokemon Go’s scale is an on-demand one

    1. Scott Lancet

      @fredwilson:disqus you know more about the on-demand labor space than most, am I crazy or is there a ton of opp here??

  24. daryn

    One of the most well done things in Pokemon Go is how unique the poke stops are. Not famous landmarks, but actually street art and details you probably walk past everyday without noticing. I love that.

  25. Kirsten Lambertsen

    It’s a perfect marriage of story and game. Ingress is really popular, but mix those game mechanics with a story that holds so much meaning for people and you get boom!

  26. Rob Underwood

    Tried it out this AM here in Maine. Really fun. Curious how many folks have also played geocaching games (same idea but you find real objects that other people place).Seems like a great potential play for a company with a rich location layer API that could help facilitate location based ads, sponsorships, paid in-app tools, etc. through Go.

  27. David Cheng

    If you made this game without the Pokemon IP would it still have been adopted so rapidly? Ingress had a strong following but nowhere near Pokemon Go.

  28. yojak

    With all the buzz on Pokemon Go, the App does not show up in any of the “Hot Apps/Apps we like” lists on the front page of the Apple App Store. But does show up as number one in search results.

  29. SubstrateUndertow

    Has AR action/motif gaming been applied as a retail promotion/rewards strategy Yet ?

    1. Lawrence Brass

      Something like chasing-hunting discount coupons?

      1. SubstrateUndertow

        I guess that would be a starting point.I don’t know maybe product-based AR battles between customers at say any Home-Depot location for a chance to win 1 free big/small appliance/tool/materials offered to the game winner each month with the chances of winning augmented by the frequency with which players participate in any AR game at any Home-Despot that month/week/day?Maybe opportunities for brands to interact with customers via in-store AR gaming interactions where discounts to players who master knowledge of a products claimed advantages over competing products, converting them into more stick customers?Maybe ways for complementary brand/products to build AR gaming alliances to capture customers via co-puchase discounts ?Maybe just a way to create an interactive play-communities within large big-box locations to make the shopping experience more fun or entertain to bored/waiting family members who are just along for the ride and don’t dig this particular dad/mom/kid based shopping category?

        1. Lawrence Brass

          Great concepts. I would go for the first and the second. Could be offered as a service for medium-big retailers, including mapping and required beacons for the shop rooms and the design and implementation of the games. I like it.

  30. hypermark

    “Because there is a certain inevitability about inventions of this sort…the real contribution lies, first, in making the idea work.” — Federico Fagin (on pioneering the first microprocessors at Intel)

  31. creative group

    Contributors:Who follow anything without reviewing the effects or bugs.Pokemon Go first criminal use. Using the GEO to Rob people who will follow any trend.

  32. Rob Underwood

    Interesting development –>…I checked my account and it (Pokemon Go) did in fact have full Google account access. The only other app that had the same access was Chrome.

    1. Adam Sher

      Only thing missing is the equivalent for y2k. block-chain size?

  33. Westport_Johnny

    Gotta catch ’em all. Greatest marketing slogan ever

  34. pookyamsterdam

    Its got to be what you do with the tech – this is a real CTA for the end user. What’s next? Absolut challenge of finding 10 AR cocktails and the 11th one is on them? S’-p

  35. Ronnie Rendel

    Fred, you drove home such an important point for me with this post. It’s not just the idea, or the team, or the execution, but also timing, and a touch of magic.

  36. Andrea Moro

    I 100% disagree. Pokemon Go is a straight clone of Ingress, which was not successful and flickered as players did not have anything new to do in the game after a few months. The one important thing is that this is the first geo-location game that incorporates a mainstream license.

  37. João Gonçalves

    We usually find stories telling us that the product that’s now a world wide success was invented by X a long time ago. My thoughts on this is that no matter how great your idea is, it won’t be awesome until you get the timing right. If it’s a product of the future, you won’t have success in the present. If it’s a product of the past, you won’t find any market share for you. More than anything, timing is the key to success.

  38. creative group

    Andrew Cashion:your friend? A person we would run like hell from. Playing a video game while playing Golf. Rational or irrational thoughts?

  39. falicon

    It’s all about the game within the game! 😉

  40. Lawrence Brass

    Like it or not, we all have the hunter-gatherer hardwired in our brains and a need for achievement and group recognition. I think this game builds upon that plus the powerful Pokémon brand.

  41. creative group

    Lawrence Brass:Don’t tell us you have succumbed to irrational exuberance.

  42. Lawrence Brass

    Not yet. Not available in my store. Not my type of game but I will surely give it a try and play it to get an idea about how it ‘works’.I have been playing network multiplayer games for almost 20 years now, so I understand some of the “irrational” part. But what game is rational?This game in particular is an excellent example of AR, network effects, branding in action, and the resulting valuation. As a friend said to me when I finally adopted WhatsApp instead of iMessage and SMS: “Welcome to the 21st century”.