Pokémon Go – Why Is It Important?
By now, surely, you’ve heard of Pokémon Go. It’s near impossible to check your Twitter feed or scroll through your Facebook updates without seeing dozens of screenshots and progress updates from friends. Drive through your neighborhood or walk through your local shopping mall, and you’ll most likely see people with outstretched smartphones, a look of determination on their faces. So, what is this craze that’s overtaken the country? And why is it important in today’s sales and marketing landscape?
Pokémon originally debuted for Nintendo’s Game Boy system in 1995. Twenty one years later, Pokémon Go is Nintendo’s latest installment in the Pokémon gaming series. Co-developed with Niantic (a mobile app making company), Pokémon Go uses augmented reality to allow players to hunt fictional monsters in reality. Using your smartphone’s camera, the game overlays monsters onto the physical, real world; the idea is to capture the monsters and train them, in order to “level up”. The game uses GPS technology to track where players are, and to place the monsters in specific locations. It’s free to play but offers in-app purchases which can help players “level up” more quickly.
There are a few other important elements to the game, elements that could hold great opportunity for marketers. One is Pokestops, where players “check in” and are given in-game items. These items are tied to physical locations such as stores, churches and parks. There are also gyms that are tied to physical locations, where the trained monsters battle one another for neighborhood dominance.
Now, are you thinking what I’m thinking? Pokestops and Gyms have “marketing opportunity” written all over them, right?. If you’re a marketer, you read that last paragraph and most likely automatically thought “geo-targeting!”. You thought “how can my business become one of these Pokestops, or one of these gyms, and attract hordes of people?”. Unfortunately for U.S. marketers, and marketers in the other 30+ countries with Pokémon Go, these locations were pre-determined by the game’s developers and thus businesses cannot apply to become one. But, don’t think for a moment that Pokémon Go is going to let those marketing dollars slip from their grasp – the game does allow players to purchase and use what are called “Lure Modules”, which attract monsters to your physical location for 30 minutes. Businesses all over the country are already using these Lure Modules to attract people to their locations. Some are getting creative and posting via social media if they are able to lure rare Pokémon to their location, and/or offering discounts to players who come to their store while gaming.
Also, as of the writing of this article, Pokémon Go is set to release in Japan, the birthplace of Pokémon. And with this release, Nintendo has partnered with McDonald’s Japan to allow its approximately 3,000 locations to be Pokémon Go Gyms. McDonalds’ all over Japan are preparing for an influx of business, as Pokémon Go players show up to train, battle, “level up”… and hopefully eat a lot of burgers, fries and chicken nuggets.
Pokémon Go has single-handedly doubled the size of Nintendo’s business, almost instantly making it a player in the mobile gaming space. The app was released at the beginning of this month, shot up to over 21 million active users in the U.S. along by mid-month, and is already bigger among Android users than Pandora Radio, Twitter, Netflix and Spotify. Less than a week after its release, the app was installed on almost 11% of Android devices – compare this to such popular games as Candy Crush Saga (installed on 8.7% of Android devices) and Clash of Clans (installed on 5.2% of Android devices) and you can begin to get a sense of what a big deal this is, and what a huge opportunity this presents. On the Apple side of things, it is estimated that over the next year or two Pokémon Go will make Apple around $3 billion in revenue.
From a marketing standpoint, Pokémon Go has now shown advertisers almost overnight the marketing power that augmented reality could hold in reaching potential customers.
The million dollar question is, though, will Pokémon Go be a flash in the pan? Will it be this summer’s “Ice Bucket Challenge”? Or will this be something still going strong a year from now, a la Candy Crush? While it’s still early, indications are that Pokémon Go could be going strong for quite some time. Right now, there are only a few things in the original Pokémon game that are in the app, so many updates could be coming over time. Also, social elements could always be incorporated into the game. The trick will be to release these updates with the right timing, so as to keep hardcore fans hooked and keep the buzz going socially. And you can bet that for as long as Pokémon Go is popular, Nintendo will incorporate ways for marketers to spend ad dollars with them.
Bottom line – the madness has only begun.