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The popularity of Pokémon Go, Nintendo’s latest release in the Pokémon gaming series, is growing at a tremendous pace[1]. The Android and iOS mobile game has been downloaded over 15 million times by people all over the world after launching less than a week ago. The app’s unprecedented popularity has lifted the company’s stock price substantially: Nintendo’s market value jumped $7.5 billion over the past weekend. There are downsides to this augmented reality pandemic, however. For instance, if you’ve seen an alarming number of people staring at their phones while walking around cemeteries Pokémon Go is likely to blame. There have also been reports of widespread sunburns, car accidents, and even two people falling off a cliff all chasing Pokémon.
We wanted to know just how this sensation is growing, beyond the number of people actually downloading the game. In order to find that out we gathered data on Google search volumes, for a few keywords, over the past week. Specifically, we looked at searches for “Pokémon Go” and “Pokémon” to look at the effect the gaming sensation has had on Google search behavior, and we also looked at “Facebook”, one of the most popular Google search terms, to offer a comparison for searches related to Pokémon Go.
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The figure above shows the search frequency for “Pokémon”, “Pokémon Go”, and “Facebook”. It is clearly visible that over the course of a week both “Pokémon” and “Pokémon Go” search trends are beginning to approach the high search frequency bar set by “Facebook”. Google Trends provides this data on a relative scale of 0 – 100, where 100 is equal to the most searches for a term. To illustrate this scaling we will use the chart above as reference. Google user searches for “Facebook” are at their peak around mid-morning on July 11th, where the orange dashed line touches 100. All of the other points on that line and the other lines are relative to that 100. So, when “Pokémon Go” touches 50 on the morning of July 9th that means there were half as many searches for “Pokémon Go” at that time than there were for “Facebook” at its peak on July 11th. Although “Pokémon Go” never quite surpasses “Facebook” in search popularity, but its meteoric rise is certainly notable.
Google also provides data on the likelihood of users from individual states to search for these terms. We have mapped that data out for you below. The map shows the relative frequency of searches for Pokémon Go by state. The darker the shade of blue indicates the higher frequency of Google searches for Pokémon Go in that state.
Regional Differences In Pokémon Go Search Likelihood
July 5th – 12th
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There are clearly regional trends here. “Pokémon Go” searches are quite frequent in Utah and up through the northwestern United States and oddly enough in Alaska. We can also clearly see that the Pokémon Go phenomenon has not taken hold in the south.
In the end, Pokémon Go appears to be here to stay for a while. The market clearly thinks that this app is adding value to Nintendo. Google’s search trends are undeniably impressive, as are the number of app downloads. And all of this is coming less than a week after the app’s release. So be prepared to encounter more people who believe that they can stare at a phone and walk at the same time than usual, but remember they’re just following their dream of “catching them all”.
[1] For a quick explanation of the game see this short Vox write-up.

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