Aside from being the nostalgia bomb and a dream come true Pokémon Go is for Pokémon fanatics, mainframe companies can learn something from the innovative new play-for-free location-based augmented reality mobile game.

Pokémon Go uses your phone’s GPS and clock to determine your location and time. As you move from place to place, the game generates Pokémon in your vicinity, and they show up on your smartphone screen for you to catch.

Looking back at Pokémon’s history, you can see the franchise has come a long way. In 1995, Japanese videogame designer Satoshi Tajiri’s idea for Pokémon germinated and quickly became the obsession of a generation.

Over the course of Pokémon’s evolution into a successful franchise, landing just behind the Mario videogame franchise, kids snuck Gameboys into school via backpacks to play Pokémon in class and hauled around binders of Pokémon trading cards. They also spent afternoons after school watching Ash Ketchum, the protagonist of the Pokémon television series, travel across the land, searching far and wide for Pokémon and battling other Pokémon Trainers. Most of the participants of this era are now adults, or nearly so, obsessing over a new phenomenon: smartphones.

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The Innovation of Pokémon Go and the Mainframe

From a business perspective, Pokémon Go is a response to the digital age, an attempt to revive Pokémon’s fan base, as well as reach a new group of people previously unfamiliar with Pokémon. By bringing the game to where people are most—their phones—the innovators at Pokémon have mainstreamed their brand by providing a modern way for a broader audience to interact with it in an advanced digital age.

Just as Pokémon has innovated between mediums over the course of its existence, with Pokémon Go being the latest iteration, the mainframe platform has been innovated to remain the most secure and reliable computing system available for backend transactions.

The IBM z13 mainframe includes a number of advanced capabilities tuned to the digital economy. But as web, mobile and cloud applications increasingly tap into mainframe data, the mainframe’s culture, processes and tools can’t continue in outdated modes.

Mainframe companies can take a few cues from the innovative steps taken by Pokémon and mainstream the mainframe. This means including the mainframe in their broader enterprise Agile/DevOps processes by enabling IT staff, regardless of their familiarity with the mainframe, to do mainframe-related tasks with ease and confidence. To do that, companies must provide the next generation of developers with the right culture, processes and tools.

The Pokémon franchise logically mainstreamed its brand for the digital age via Pokémon Go. Mainframe software companies should mainstream the mainframe for the digital age, too.

A World Without the Mainframe (and Pokémon Go)

What if Pokémon neglected to innovate its brand? The obvious prediction is it would fade away, or at the very least become a siloed, niche brand cherished by a handful of people. This is how the mainframe has been running for number of years—siloed and niched. In the digital economy, if we fail to mainstream the mainframe, the platform and the companies who depend on it will fade into the background.

If Pokémon fades away, the world will continue moving forward; if the mainframe fades away, we’ll lose the most effective platform available for running financial, insurance, government and other large-industry institutions that support the digital economy and the world.

To both former or current Pokémon fans who are onboard with mainstreaming the mainframe: as we work to advance the platform amidst a fusillade of criticism from mainframe naysayers claiming the platform is too old and slow to stick around, recall these apropos lyrics from the Pokémon theme song:

Every challenge along the way
With courage I will face.
I will battle every day
To claim my rightful place.
Come with me,
The time is right,
There’s no better team.
Arm in arm we’ll win the fight!
It’s always been our dream!