Pokemon Go on the Streets of Tokyo

Pokemon Go is still a massive phenomenon here in Japan. I recently joined a crowd of people running from the Diver City area of Odaiba all the way to the docks. We ran for about ten minutes straight, sweating and grunting, all normal social embarrassment had gone.

All because we had heard there was a ‘Lapras’ (a rare water pokemon) at the docks. A constant stream of people came and went after successfully catching it. The latecomers getting increasingly frantic in case it disappeared, even to the point where people were stopping their cars in the middle of the road to jump out and catch it. The police had to come and move people along. This kind of mania makes it clear that some will go to many lengths in order to ‘catch ‘em all’.

Pokemon Go uses Augmented Reality technology. It incorporates the real world to create a new gaming experience. But rather than AR being the cause of this hysteria, people are mostly putting it down to nostalgia. Pokemon already held the status of a massive worldwide brand long before this installment in the series. But the new element of actually going out into the real world to find the creatures plays a part, and augmented reality is the crux of its digital marketing potential.

‘Luring’ Consumers to your Business  

The creatures are coveted by young and old alike. Many elements in the game such as ‘lures’ and even the pokemon themselves, have a time limit. So theoretically, you can get a large group of people where you want them and at the time you want them. The money-making potential of this, is of course, not lost on Niantic, the developer of this hugely popular mobile game. First, there was a deal with McDonalds, in which all McDonalds restaurants would be made into Pokemon ‘gyms’, a place to train and battle your creatures. Next, was communications giant Softbank, who cinched a deal to make their shops into ‘pokestops’, a place where you can pick up in-game items.

Niantic isn’t revealing much, but the idea that massive corporations are fighting to get their businesses incorporated into the game, doesn’t seem like a wild notion. Many small businesses have also enjoyed a rise in customers. Due to pure luck, their location was chosen by the game creators as a pokestop site. Any player can place a ‘lure’ on a pokestop; an item that will attract pokemon to a spot for 30 minutes. The owners, taking advantage of this, bought lures (priced at about $7 for 8) to keep pokemon popping up in their premises all day. Pokemon Go is the first game to make Augmented Reality mainstream but given its popularity, it won’t be the last. Technology is evolving and taking digital marketing along for the adventure.