Pokémon Go started out as an April Fools’ joke in 2014, when Google allowed users to browse Google Maps searching for and capturing the little pocket monsters. This week, the crossover between virtual life and reality became ever closer with the release of Pokémon Go, an app which allows users to roam the streets and catch Pokémon in ‘real life’. A far cry from Pokémon Red and Blue, first released in the 1990’s on the original Gameboy, this new game encourages users to get off the sofa and explore their local area, battling their Pokémon at Pokémon Gyms and stopping to collect some more Pokéballs at Pokéstops along the way.
It has already become the most successful mobile app in history in the US, with estimates placing daily active users at 21 million. Statistics even indicate that users are spending more time per day on the app than on Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter or Instagram. Daily revenue from the game is estimated to be $1.6 million (£1.2m) and Nintendo’s shares have increased by over 50 per cent in the last week. It is clear that Pokémon Go has already become a huge phenomenon. In light of the release of the app in the UK on the 14th July, ADTEKR looks at the implications the game may have for advertising and marketing.
Of course being one of the most viral mobile applications of all time brings with it enormous advertising potential. Across social media, various organisations and public services have utilised the sudden popularity of Pokémon Go to advertise their work, from the New York Police Department and its Public Library to the Art Institute of Chicago. But it is small businesses which have capitalised on this app the most and in ingenious manners.
The nature of the app means players are attracted to local destinations, in order to scavenge for characters to place in their ‘Pokédex’. This presents the opportunity to utilise the app almost as a form of guerrilla marketing, as one New York restaurateur‘s actions highlight. The savvy business owner paid a mere $10 through an in-app purchase to attract virtual Pokemon to his pizzeria, as a result of which droves of real life players visited his business. As a result, profits went up a staggering 75%. It isn’t just business moguls who have benefitted from the Pokémon Go craze either; their employees are also starting to grasp how to boost sales via this medium. For instance, opportunist Uber drivers in the US have begun to market their services specifically for the driving around of players, in order to collect Pokéballs.
Though the app itself is free to download, there are a number of in-app purchases and tie-ins which incentivise dedicated players to spend in order to maximise their gaming experience. But greater possibilities for Nintendo in the future lie within the field of paid advertising. Nintendo could potentially negotiate deals whereby large retailers or businesses pay for their premises to become ‘sponsored locations’- drawing in consumers. John Hanke, the CEO of software development company Niantic which has partnered with Nintendo to create Pokémon Go, envisions advertisers being charged according to a “cost per visit” basis, similar to the “cost per click” used in advertising via Google’s search. A previous Niantic developed game named “Ingress” operated a similar tactic: large US chains like Jamba Juice paid to be featured prominently as ‘portals’ within their augmented reality game in a bid to attract customers to the real world store.
The app even presents marketing opportunities through its geospatial data capture. Although currently not the case, through noting players’ frequently visited locations information could be gathered by marketers about consumer habits, building profiles and allowing tailored, location specific services. Though some have lauded Pokémon Go as a mere passing fad, the swift ascendance of the app into a global craze shows that the possibilities of brand promotion emerging from the app are enormous.
As Pokémon Go begins its second day in the app stores in the UK, it will be interesting to watch the developments in advertising and marketing as the game rises in popularity. There has been some negative attention in the press; for example the game has caused controversy with some users being arrested for utilising the app to commit a number of armed robberies. Despite the odd bump in the road it seems Pokémon Go has engaged Pokémon fans around the world which will no doubt lead to huge potential for businesses as players pursue to ‘catch ’em all’.
With thanks to Francesca Gough and Cait O’Reilly who co-wrote this article.