Did Nintendo lose out by not launching Pokemon Go in Singapore?

Unless you live under a giant rock, you’d know Nintendo’s latest game Pokemon Go has caused quite a stir worldwide since its launch about a week ago. From causing traffic problems to job losses due to anger management issues over the game, the Pokemon Go has definitely roused emotions.

The game is currently available in the United States, Australia and New Zealand.While a global roll-out was planned, according to several media reports, is currently on pause due to technical difficulties. According to Wall Street Journal, Pokemon Go has already added more than a staggering US$9 billion to Nintendo’s market value. It is also starting to surpass Twitter in number of daily active users on Android.

For those of us not heavily involved with the game, here’s how it works. Users need to turn on the camera function on their mobiles as the game utilises augmented reality to ‘catch’ the Pokemons on the go. When spotted, you have to swipe at the little monsters to consider them caught.

So why is this such a global phenomenon, you ask? Well it is because it combines 90s nostalgia with “a taste of the future”  using augmented reality, explained  Justin Peyton, chief strategy officer APAC of DigitasLBi. He added the game adds a sense of purpose that really connects to the audience.

Nonetheless, if you grew up in Singapore in the 90s, most certainly you’d be familiar with the Pokemon craze the nation faced. Combined with the fact that the market is very much a mobile-first one, it begs the question why Nintendo didn’t launch it in Singapore along with US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

Prantik Mazumdar, managing partner at Happy Marketer said that while he was surprised that Singapore was not considered to be one of the initial test beds for Nintendo despite its smartphone penetration, markets such as the United States, Australia, Japan and New Zealand were probably considered due to the bigger scale it can get from the larger population size.

Agreeing with Mazumdar, Peyton said there are two different strategies probably came into play when releasing a game like Pokemon Go globally. Firstly, scale would come into play. As such, Nintendo launching it in markets such as US helped build a global appetite before launching it into other markets through the publicity and awareness generated.

“This makes a lot of sense for brands who are very confident in their product,” Peyton said.

The alternative, he added, would be to use smaller markets that display similar behaviors to large markets in order to test functionality and effectively evolve a product before a wider release. He added both are apt strategies. Selecting which is right for a game or app simply requires the publisher to take an honest look at their product to determine where they are in the development pipeline.

After all, you only get one chance to make a first impression, and ideally, the impression you make in large markets should be a great one because that will drive the majority of the revenue.

Should marketers give Pokemon Go a go?

Mazumdar said with the trend, more experimental marketers are likely to jump on this wave and utilise the geolocation functions of Pokemon Go to put their brands on the map. But if they do so, they should make it quick.

“As Pokemon Go is a mobile game, the craze would probably be something which is short lived,” Mazumdar said.

Erik Hallander, regional mobile and innovation director, Isobar Asia Pacific, however warned against brands jumping in too quickly on the trend for the sake of it.

The moment it gets too geared towards brand profit, gamers will see through it in a heartbeat and riot. The gaming audience is a more cynical audience than everyone else.

Meanwhile to Ashley Ringrose, founder of Soap Linked by Isobar, Pokemon Go is an indication that gaming is now main stream and brands should no longer deny it by saying gaming is niche. While the use of augmented reality makes the game more sharable, brands should not start trying to replicate it, he added.

Ringrose added that the trend would be more beneficial to smaller players in the market such as retail stores or F&B establishments. For bigger brands such as supermarket chains, this may strike as a more blatant move.

Like Mazumdar, he added that the buzz will probably “wear off in a few weeks”. He added:

Have some fun with the ‘fad’ but don’t try and go any deeper and make money.

Read also: Fake Pokemon Go all the rage in China