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Pokemon Go: A go or no for retailers?

Cashing in on 90s nostalgia and getting the population out of their homes and into the streets, Pokemon Go has garnered interest worldwide despite the game being launched only in United States, Australia and New Zealand.

The game was jointly developed by Nintendo, The Pokemon Company and game developer Niantic which broke free from Google last year. Niantic focuses on real-time geospatial and indexing techniques and as such, its games utilise augment reality.

While there is certainly excitement around the game, not everyone is happy. One such company is Palmers Fresh Grill, a restaurant in Lexington, United States which claims its business has been disrupted.

In a statement to A+M, a spokesperson from the Palmers Fresh Grill said there is definitely an increase in traffic to its restaurant, however this has been more of a bane than a boon. Out of the 40 people who visit the restaurant each day since the game’s release, only a total of two parties actually dined in.

“The rest were like zombies, bumping into guests, blocking tables as we try to seat them and trying to walk into our kitchen. Guests, as well as employees, are fed up with the impolite behaviour of these players,” the spokesperson said.

Palmers Fresh Grill has since posted signs, letting people who play know that the restaurant’s dining area is only for restaurant patrons.

Low Bee Yin, marketing director of Courts Malaysia said in a conversation with A+M that despite knowing the game is a current fad, having the Pokemon pop up in different areas of the Courts store would definitely result in immediate engagement. While this can drive footfall into the store, a brand marketer should not expect this to result in sales.

“It would be great for Courts to be one of the places people can find these little creatures. If time and technology permits, as a marketer, it would be a dream to create our very own Pokemon,” she said.

However, Low was very aware that this might tip the balance towards commercialisation of the game which could result in the loss of appeal from consumers.

Sulin Lau, head of marketing services at Maxis added that as a brand that’s been supporting the gaming and e-sports community for a while, she and her team are exited to see mobile and AR gaming going mainstream.

“Sometime last week, we saw Pokemon overtaking sex as a Google search term. More interestingly, people are interacting with the app over 40 minutes each day – which is higher than we’ve seen for even the biggest messaging and social apps,” she said adding:

Even if the initial craze settles down, it’s likely that Pokemon Go (and all the other AR games that will surely follow it) will disrupt how most telcos see mobile gaming – as mainstream rather than niche.

Meanwhile, Howie Lau CMO of StarHub in Singapore, without revealing StarHub’s plans, said that as a marketer and tech enthusiast the entire phenomenon is exciting because it is the first time augmented reality (AR) has been implemented in a large scale setting.

“This no doubt pushes the boundaries of mobile and as all the reports say, it is extremely addictive,” Lau said.

However, some establishments have put in place strategies to cash in on the action and increase footfall. L’inizio’s Pizza Bar in New York reported a 30% increase in sales, according to Bloomberg through the use of “lures”. Lures is part of the in-game purchases to attract Pokemon creatures towards their location and hence build their collection.

However, according to Financial Times, Niantic, is planning to allow retailers and brands to sponsor locations on its virtual map to further expand its revenue stream.

Pokemon Go currently utilises a customised version of Google Maps to map in-game locations such as “stops” and “gyms” to encourage users to move from one location to another. Sponsoring locations may involve making a particular venue an official “Pokemon stop” which would hence aid in driving location to businesses with a brick and mortar shop.

It was also reported by multiple news sites that some “poke stops” have surfaced in locations seen as inappropriate such as Holocaust memorials in Auschwits, Poland.

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

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