There are plenty of articles about Pokemon Go around the internet, some outlining the frustrations of trying to go about your day without having to sidestep someone staring at their phone, others showing the “mass hysteria” caused by the sighting of a Charizard, and many more about the accidents people have gotten themselves into while playing.

But few people are discussing why this game has become such a huge success and embraced it for what it is, a fun trending topic which has potential benefits.

So to understand this rise in popularity let’s cast our minds back to January 2014, and the sudden rise of another game, Flappy Bird. If you’re unaware, Flappy Bird was a side-scroller game where the player tries to control a small bird through obstacles using very limited controls.

If you’re unaware, Flappy Bird was a side-scroller game where the player tries to control a small bird through obstacles using very limited controls.


The idea of Flappy Bird becoming one of the most successful mobile games of that time defied all logic to professional game designers. It had little to no original game mechanics or design, it was even openly criticised for plagiarism from other game designers, and yet it took off to become the most downloaded free game in the IOS App Store when it was released.

Others have written about the addictive nature of Flappy Bird and that people liked how it was fresh and simple when so many games were becoming overly complicated, but simply, it became popular because everyone’s friends were playing it.

And now it’s the same story with Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go is essentially a simplified version of the game Ingress, (both games were created by Niantic), but created to appeal to diehard Pokemon fans. Pokemon Go and Ingress have a lot of the same features and use the same game mechanics, but one just has some Pokemon thrown into the mix. But, for Pokemon Go things have escalated dramatically.

Pokemon Go started to build momentum, a few people started playing and then more, it got noticed and talked about on sites like Reddit, and the more it was talked about, the more successful it became.

Every once in a while something like this happens, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be a game, think of the rise of Tinder (100 million downloads as of March 2016). If people were interested in dating apps, there were plenty of options available, but it became so popular because everyone knew someone who was talking about it.

It becomes the thing to be a part of, to stay in the loop, to stay cool. If everyone playing Pokemon Go was a huge Pokemon fan, they would have already been playing one of the many other Pokemon games out there.

What makes Pokemon Go interesting, compared to other mobile games/apps that have had their moment in the sun, is that non-players can’t avoid interacting with players. Step outside and look around and you’ll most likely spot someone playing the game.

People may complain, but then again, people tend to complain about everything. The game brings people out to interact with real world places, making it more difficult for others to ignore. But anything that encourages exercise and gets people of all ages to get on their feet and move around is a great thing.

So, being data analysts, (and nerds), we wanted to encourage the exercising aspect of Pokemon Go by working out specific numbers to help players understand the physical benefits of playing. We wanted to help players justify their Pokemon hunting habit by having solid data to back up the ‘it’s good for you to keep playing’ argument.

So let’s break it down and look at what you would need to do in order to get to level 20 in the game, of course, people can go higher than level 20, but we’ll just set that as a nice target for now.

First, let’s break down some of the numbers:


To reach level 20, you would need to gain 210,000  experience points overall.


To reach that goal by only focusing on catching Pokemon, would involve one of the following:

Catching 1909 Pokemon with a curveball bonus / Catching 1909 Pokemon with a nice! throw bonus / Catching 1400 Pokemon with a great! throw bonus / Catching 1050 Pokemon with Excellent! throw bonus  


But from the chart above, we know that catching Pokemon isn’t the only way to gain experience points (XP). 

Another way is to incubate eggs in order to build up your XP. If you have an egg and place it into an incubator, you can hatch that egg and earn XP points. The egg will hatch after you travel 5km and the speed at which you travel that 5km will determine the amount of XP points you earn.


Walking 1 egg(5km) – you can earn 8 XP per min / Jogging 1 egg(5km) – you can earn 15 XP per min / Running 1 egg(5km) – you can earn 24 XP per min

We decided to run and experiment in order to get a benchmark. We started our experiment at a beginner level 5 and played Pokemon Go for 94 minutes in a city centre. 

These were our results:

  So if we take these numbers as the base, in order to reach level 20 we would need to play Pokemon Go for a total of 67 hours, travelling a distance of 202 km,  along the way catching 562 Pokemon. In other words, playing Pokemon Go for just less than three days straight without stopping, and travelling the distance of the London marathon almost 5 times, that’s not so bad, right? In terms of calories burned while walking that distance (we’ll assume we won’t be running those three days), we would burn 27259  calories**The number of calories burned here is calculated based on our particular weight and average speed walking.  


Other less fun activities we would need to do in order to burn that many calories would be*:


Now, our numbers here are based on our particular experiment, we would need a larger dataset in order to get more solid results. But, there is no reason why you can’t use this a baseline reference when arguing with friends and family about whether playing Pokemon Go is a waste of time.

We’ve also run a more complex experiment using the data analytics tool Red Sqirl. We used advanced predictive data analytics techniques to work out where Pokemon will appear in the game. You can read more about this experiment here on hack.guides()

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