Pokémon Go just may be more useful than we thought, especially for small businesses.
The free-to-play AR (altered reality) mobile game takes advantage of a venerable Nintendo franchise alongside several advanced mobile features. Players use their smartphone’s GPS, camera, gyroscope, clock and device detection to combine into an immersive experience.
But you don’t have to be an aspiring Pokémon trainer or a nine year-old-at-heart to care about the biggest tech story in ages. Businesses of all shapes, sizes and elemental types can benefit from the millions of obsessed trainers attempting to slowly fill their Pokédex.
After all, if Pokémon Go can bring people to church, who is to say it can’t bring people inside your business?
If you have trouble telling a Wartortle form a Wobbuffet, you are not alone.
Pokémon (think Jamaican acupuncturist: “Pokey-mon”) was the name of a popular Nintendo game released on Game Boy in 1998, which later spawned a merchandising empire. It tasked players with controlling a 11 year old embarking out in the world to see exotic places, observe the local animal species and enslave them to fight in brutal cage matches for your own ego-driven pleasure. Trust me when I say it is more innocent than it sounds.
Pokémon Go takes this concept and unleashes it on the real world. Instead of a tiny, pixelated character jumping over ledges and wandering into tall grasses, YOU are the one scuffing your knees on embankments and giving ticks a free meal.
Players walk around carrying their smartphones, which informs them using a GPS when Pokémon may be about. If you find a Pokémon, you can capture it using a Pokéball. If it doesn’t break free, you have a new ally in your battle to be the very best — like no one ever was!
Unfortunately, your supply of Pokéballs is not infinite. To replenish items, you can either shell out a few real bucks or visit a “PokéStop.” PokéStops appear on your GPS map, but they are based on real-life locations. Plaques, monuments, coffee shops and even…
Erm, you get the idea. Visiting PokéStops is a requirement to keep playing without paying money, so players have a strong incentive to frequent these locales.
In addition to PokéStops, there are Pokémon Gyms that players can “capture” for their team using high-powered Pokémon, but that’s another story.
As alluded to earlier, having a PokéStop at your location or even just a few errant Pokémon nearby can mean big foot traffic. People looking to re-up their supplies or track down elusive ‘Mons must come in person, after all.
Not only does this feature require real-life exercise (something many gamers desperately needed) but it means that the connection between digital activities and in-store visits has been closer than ever.
Some businesses have been taking advantage of this fact by joining Pokémon Go not as a trainer, but as a purveyor of Pokégoods. One pizzeria in Queens, NY, made in-app purchases for an “Lure” item that attract lingering Pokémon out of the digital woodwork. As players in the area noticed the critter congregation, they flocked to L’Inizio Pizza in pursuit.
“The amount of people has been astonishing,” owner Tom Lattanzio told the bastion of journalism that is the New York Post. “All day long, from afternoon to evening this past weekend.”
He claims sales shot up by 75 percent as hungry trainers re-fueled their very real energy meters while adding Pokéminions to their menagerie.
Other businesses were quick to notice such an effect, with big partnerships in the works to develop sponsored PokéStops and maybe even gyms inside paying establishments.
You don’t have to have a multi-billion dollar war chest to cash in on the Pokécraze. Here are just a few ideas I cooked up:
- Pay a few dollars a day for Pokémon Lures, like L’Inizio’s did
- Share screenshots of Pokémon frequenting your establishment on social media
- Get playful with messaging, adding in references and Poképuns that will make everyone want to get a Pikachu (Peek at you! Get it??)
- Be a group organizer for large gym battles or group sweeps of nearby Pokémon
Looking beyond the specific fad, also recognize what a huge opportunity this was for Nintendo and their partnered mobile developer Niantic. Pokémon Go has been headlining news sites since launch, and as updates for the game roll out, the public’s obsession may deepen. Nintendo’s stock shot up from all the attention. The failure of their latest console has turned into a success story now that they tapped into the power and ubiquitous appeal of mobile.
Above all else, people like the Darwin, Australia police department are making references to a video game that by all rights should have been forgotten a decade ago. I guess it just goes to show you: great brands never die, they just faint for a little while …until they get revived at a Pokécenter.