Wham-O Inc. invented the Hula Hoop in 1957 and within a year, it became a colossal craze. No kid could be seen without the deceptively simple hoop that was lightweight and inexpensive to make and purchase but a tad difficult to manufacture. Within two years, more than a 100 million units we sold and it became the product that all wannabe inventors wish they could emulate. Incidentally, many years later, the company repeated its success with the Frisbee.
Over the years, there have been repeated revivals of the Hoop craze and moments when everybody had to have one. Off the top of my head, this list (very broadly) includes pogo sticks, bicycle tassles, yo-yo, et all. The Hula Hoop’s success has been so fascinating and enduring that it has even become an Olympic sport by being incorporated into gymnastics.
Will the same happen to Pokémon Go? Fads come and go, but that’s what defines a fad. If the mania sticks around forever then it becomes, well, just a regular thing. Are cars a craze? They were a hundred years ago when barely anybody had one but now a car is just a commodity. The most recent craze to sweep much of the world is Pokémon Go, where people hunt down cyber characters in real world spaces. Its release saw an initial burst of frenzied excitement with crowds of zealous Pokémon hunters gathering to glare at their mobile phones and collect the cute but meaningless Pokémons.
The initial launch was so overwhelming that computer servers were running at dangerous capacity levels. Nintendo’s stock went through the roof before dropping back down as investors began to fear that this would only be a short lived craze, as it probably will be. Although the craze has been popular with young children, Pokémon Go differs from the Hula Hoop because it mainly appeals to much “older” children in their twenties, and even, forties.
But I think the novelty will soon wear off and Pokémon Go will be a relatively short-lived craze because these older kids will become bored and find the whole thing to be a bit embarrassing. Few months from now it will cease to exist. So what really makes a good craze? Just because it won’t last forever, we shouldn’t forget that Pokémon Go has been an amazingly successful craze. With its fusion of technology innovation and childhood nostalgia, it has brought people together, generating along the way a great deal of merriment, memories as well as moolah. Nintendo’s stock may well drift back downwards but they did succeed in building their bizarre Pokémon story and they could do it again.
The Pokémon Go craze will surely phase out like the Harlem Shake and the Ice Bucket Challenge. It will not become an Olympic sport and Nintendo may never again repeat that success. Even Wham-O Inc., despite its enormous success with the Hula Hoop and Frisbee, has disappeared into anonymity after the death of its founding genius. But crazes come and go and, just like cold November rain, nothing lasts forever. It’s just that they make our lives much more enjoyable.