IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

  • 25 Jul 2016

Why Pokémon Go is more than just a game

If you’ve noticed rare groupings of millennials roaming the outside world in the last week or so, excitably shouting “Charizard!” seemingly at thin air, the likelihood is you’ve witnessed the latest gaming phenomenon to hit the UK: Pokémon Go.

Since Pokémon Go launched, a couple of weeks ago in the US and a week ago in the UK, it already has circa 21 million daily active users in the States, knocking the popularity crown from Candy Crush, previously the most widely played game to date. Pokémon Go is free to play and accessible for anyone with a camera enabled smart phone: a demographic totalling approximately 5 billion people worldwide.

Usage data released by SensorTower has revealed that the average iPhone user already spends 33 minutes and 25 seconds a day on Pokémon Go, which is greater than Facebook (22 minutes), Snapchat (18 minutes), Twitter (17 minutes and 56 seconds) and Instagram (15 minutes).


What’s clear, is that Pokémon Go has made AR technology a part of an everyday experience: including smart phone use, Google Maps, and gaming. It has smashed AR critics, who thought the technology could only come to mass adoption stage unless VR headsets or Google Glass took off (the former – too expensive; the latter – now discontinued). The key with Pokémon Go and AR is its accessibility.

So how does it all work?pokemon go

Pokémon Go integrates the real world (reflected by Google Maps) within the virtual Poke-universe, projecting it through your smartphone. Users explore the world around them with AR (augmented reality) presenting the opportunity to “catch”, “train” and “trade” Pokémon monsters. Pokestops, which provide critical in-game resources, are positioned in the real world at notable landmarks, as well as within businesses such as pubs and restaurants.

And what’s this got to go with retail?

The following quote is one that should make retail and hospitality businesses sit up and take notice. Pokémon Go is quite a big deal:

“In the history of the internet and consumer tech, nothing has had an adoption of more than 100 million global users in six days. The last record was Candy Crush – that took one year and three months to reach the same level.” – Ambarish Mitra, CEO, Blippar.

Smarter businesses have already caught onto the in-game ‘Lure’ item – which attracts Pokémon to a specific location for 30 minutes for all users of the game, costing £1.58/hour – using it to tempt potential customers through their doors.

The launch of Pokémon Go in Japan, the birthplace of Pokémon, saw the first and biggest “tie up” deal yet: full sponsorship by McDonalds, in its 3000 restaurants throughout the country. If its aim is to lure more customers to eat, it looks like it’s working…

pokemon go mcdonalds

Using AR to lure potential customers in hospitality is also evidenced by the effect of Pokestops within Costa Coffees. Costa reported a 30% increase in footfall across its Pokémon seeking stores, resulting in a 10% sales uplift on the day of launch.

As in hospitality, there’s also huge opportunities for retailers.

Maybe the closest thing we’ve seen so far using AR was in House of Fraser last Black Friday, using the technology to allow virtual window shopping. Customers could scan shoppable window vinyls in front of mannequins which brought up relevant product information and reviews, and suggestions, with the option to buy the product straight from their smartphone to beat Black Friday queues.

Because the game uses GPS, it could drive potential customers to a store in a way that other games cannot. We could see retailers tying up with Pokémon Go to lure customers with rare Pokémon in-store, or launching in-game vouchers if the user roams near to the store entrance.

“With almost two-thirds of Pokémon Go players in the 18 to 24 ‘millennial’ market, brands should embrace the opportunity this presents to target a market that typically tends to reject direct advertising”: Jens Nielsen, Head of UK Operations, Netbooster.

However, some firms have warned against brands banking too much on Pokémon Go to advertise – as with all mediums, relevance and authenticity is critical, and Pokémon users won’t be pleased to see the platform flooded with adverts:

“Players aren’t going onto Pokémon Go because they want to receive messages from Burger King, they are on it because they want to catch a Charizard. Any marketing model will have to be subtle. If advertising becomes the primary motive, then it will be the end of the game straight away”: Ambarish Mitra, CEO, Blippar.

Pokémon Go has proved a voracious appetite within the consumer base to integrate digital worlds within the real physical environment. This is a cry out for more sophisticated and relevant approaches to omnichannel retailing, with convenient, everyday technology that can be used without cost or hindrance.

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