Yes, a weird thing has happened and if you are struggling to understand it, you are not alone.
"Pokemon Go" has happened and it is the rare technological phenomenon that with very little warning became so popular and mainstream so quickly -- within one week, more than 10 percent of Android mobile devices had it installed, an order of hundreds of million -- that even early adopters hooked on the game were stunned.
Kids and grownups wandering the sidewalks and parks, holding out smartphones like compasses leading the way. Police and state agencies issuing common-sense warnings about not driving while capturing virtual creatures or to keep one's guard up to avoid getting robbed in unfamiliar locales. A dead body was found while playing the game and it was creepy, like an app-age "Stand By Me." And some businesses and homes were inundated with unexpected guests.
A backlash brewed immediately, of course, with concern that the relatively benign game was going to lead to kidnappings, murders and more digital distraction, a curious turn for an app with the goal of getting people walking around more actively. But there are suddenly just as many businesses ready to jump on the bandwagon by offering similar apps or hosting Pokemon-themed events to draw crowds.
Let's break down what just happened and how.
Why Pokemon now?
"Pokemon Go" is based on a popular Japanese franchise that hatched in the 1990s and is partly owned by Nintendo, which for years has been making capture-the-creature games, typically aimed at kids.
The new game is the first to take that concept and make it a full-fledged smart phone game for iOS and Android devices that allows player to interact with the real world using augmented reality. Using the phone's camera, you can see Pokemon creatures, stats and other information overlayed on to real environments. The point of the game is to find Pokemon creatures, capture, upgrade and train them, and then compete on one of three teams to take over locations by engaging in Pokemon battles.
The company that developed the game with The Pokemon Company, Niantic, Inc., was spun out of Google and is building on an earlier game, "Ingress" which had players join factions and do virtual battle over real-world locations. The app is free, but the game makers sell virtual cash you can use to buy items in the game, and it'll also make money via sponsored locations.
So the game combines a beloved franchise which a lot of millennials grew up with (Pokemon), takes advantage of an emerging technology many are curious about (augmented reality) and combines it with a well-fleshed out map system from a previous game ("Ingress").
Does that explain its huge success, however?
On July 6, the day was set to launch in the U.S., the pent-up frustration when the game failed to debut early in the day and when servers crashed, keeping people from playing, was the first indication that this might be a smash.
Paul Tassi, a Forbes contributor who has been putting together in-depth guides for the site about "Pokemon Go" since the game launched, said despite the nostalgia factor and the ongoing popularity of "Pokemon" video games, this one's mainstream success is a surprise.
"Everyone is floored by the success of this, myself included," Tassi said. "You might expect a Pokemon game to be big, but AR is a pretty unproven market, and this could have easily been a disappointment."
Tassi said he believes people are hopping on because they see friends playing the game and there's a relatively easy learning curve to getting started. There hasn't been such a big mobile game hit since perhaps "Candy Crush Saga," a 2012 game that "Pokemon Go" seems to have already surpassed in just over one week.
The timing of the game's release, during a terrible week of police-shooting-related news, might have also given people a much-needed bit of fun to take their minds off a barrage of tragic events.
"I think all games serve as pleasant distractions from reality, but perhaps this one more than most," Tassi said.
The Pokemon Trainer Social club
How long will the game's popularity continue after a week of dominating the world? Tassi thinks the game will face challenges in the winter in some geographic areas where the weather will make it tougher for people to get out. "All mobile games fade to some extent," he said, "but I feel like this one will stick around longer than most."
For businesses that want to ride on the coattails of the phenomenon, however, there's no time like the present. Verts Mediterranean Grill, for instance, was planning a "Poke-Party" for Thursday evening, promising "non-stop lures throughout the evening" to attract the virtual creatures and draw a crowd of customers.
Sarah Pendley, PR manager for the restaurant chain, said that some Verts locations are already "Pokestops," which dispense free virtual items in the game, or gyms, where players can train and battle Pokemon.
"We've seen a significant increase in traffic (since the game launched)," Pendley said. "Whether it's 15 or 150, we look forward to bringing together a community of gamers." If the events take off in Austin, they'll be expanded to Houston and Dallas, she said.
The chain has an in-house Pokemon fan who spread the word and trained fellow employees on the game. "Now everyone at Verts corporate is addicted," Pendley said.
The key to longevity for "Pokemon Go" may be in it continuing to feel like a social app, the rare video game that has even non-gamers talking, exploring and comparing notes with others.
Here's a Texas Standard segment about "Pokemon Go" recorded on Thursday.