Lately, you may have noticed some erratic behavior amongst people on the street—folks running around with their cell phones in front of them, seemingly after something … but nothing’s there. No, the masses aren’t going mad (actually, that’s up for debate), they’re playing Pokémon Go.
Pokémon Go is an augmented reality app from Nintendo, Niantic and the Pokémon Company, and was released on July 6, 2016. During the first week of its limited release, the game reportedly brought $1.6 million in daily revenue through the Apple iOS store alone. Within two weeks, revenue had topped $35 million. It’s safe to say people are obsessed.
But it’s not just for gamers—businesses are getting in on the action, too. Let’s take a look at how local companies can make the most of the Pokémon craze.
Pokémon Go is Different—In a Good Way
Pokémon is a media franchise that has been around since the 90s. It centers on fictional creatures, called Pokémon, which players collect and then train to do battle with other Pokémon.
Over the years it’s manifested as video games, comic books, trading cards, toys, television shows and movies. Most recently, it has become the Pokémon Go app. The basic premise is the same, but the app travels between the real world and the virtual Pokémon one (aka, “augmented reality”).
As players walk around public spaces, their phones alert them when a Pokémon is nearby. Viewing the location through the camera function allows them to see the digital creatures, and use the touch screen to throw a Poké Ball, hopefully catching the Pokémon. Players become trainers, training their captured Pokémon to win battles. Eventually, trainers join one of three teams: Mystic, Valor or Instinct.
In addition to the Pokémon themselves, players watch for PokéStops, where they can stock up on Poké Balls and other supplies, and gyms, where the battles against other players and Pokémon teams take place.
The huge departure from earlier Pokémon activities is that this one encourages people to physically move around, check out places in their actual towns and directly interact with other people.
It’s genius. We hear so much about how we sit too often and interact too little, and technology is often painted as a culprit. The creators of the Pokémon Go app have found a way to counter those problems, but without removing the technology we all love so much. And bonus, Pokémon Go is something for all ages, so families and friends can enjoy it together.
Of course, there are a few drawbacks. The Washington Post recounts a number of injuries and near-mishaps, including falling into a ditch, walking into things and even playing while driving (just don’t)! Niantic of course suggests paying attention to surroundings, not only for safety, but to enjoy the real world scenery.
Then there’s the questionable PokéStops, which, according to this report, are locations courtesy of the crowdsourcing that went into creating stops all over the world. Often points of interest, like museums, they aren’t always the most appropriate places for gaming (like a Holocaust Museum, for example). And they’re not always kid friendly, either:
But back to why Pokémon Go is so genius. First, it gets us out of the house and interacting in the real world. Second, it lets us use our electronic devices for fun. Third, it can give a boost to local businesses.
How? Those PokéStops and gyms we mentioned are real life locations determined by the game. When business owners learn their property is one, it’s an opportunity to capitalize. According to reporting from the New York Times, sponsored PokéStop and gym locations are something Niantic will announce down the road.
Of course, even locations that don’t contain PokéStops or gyms can attract players. Anything from an art museum to a bar has the chance to draw people in, increasing the chance for sales. This is a game that everyone can win.
Pokémon Go Advertising is Paying Off
Business owners all over the world are getting creative, and thinking of ways to integrate Pokémon Go play with the day to day.
An It’s a Grind coffee shop in California promised to drop a lure for every 15 drinks sold, and a Sydney, Australia, restaurant drops lures every day at lunch and dinner. Since lures only cost a dollar, the ROI here can get pretty significant.
Pokémon Go Advertising Leads to More Publicity
A clothing store in Utah, iconoCLAD, found out it was a PokéStop, and placed a clever sign advertising that fact on the street. That sign has since shown up on the likes of Forbes.com.
Get in the Game!
Any of the above ideas would be relatively easy to mimic. You can also come up with new ideas. Why not name the daily special after Pokémon Go? Or offer coupons and deals to anyone who drops a lure in your establishment?
If you can, create a designated space in your bar, restaurant or tourist attraction for Pokémon Go players. This will allow players to get together and enjoy, while non-participating customers don’t feel overwhelmed by the extra foot traffic (and the guests’ strange behavior).
What the Future Holds
Obviously, Pokémon Go is having a huge impact, and will likely influence the direction of gaming technology, as well as marketers’ response.
Tim Bajarin over at Time talks about the use of location data, how big brands will use location data themselves and the potential of blending the real world with the digital. For example, Disney, as the owner of Marvel, could do location-based games (though he hopes for something more creative than a super hero knock-off of Pokémon Go).
The BBC zeros in on the bit about augmented reality, and suggests that Pokémon Go will do more for the genre than Google Glass did.
Jennifer Booton of MarketWatch reminds us that augmented reality can be used for more pressing situations, saying that players may be “ushering in a new era of computing” and that “Pokémon Go provides a needed example of how the digital and physical worlds might be able to coexist through mobile devices … .”
In the meantime, keep enjoying Pokémon Go. Better yet, use it to boost your business. You never know—you might be on the frontline of the next big thing in technology and advertising.