With over 26 million Americans already playing Pokémon Go in less than two weeks since its launch, it’s become not just a gaming phenomena, but a social one. And, as the game is quickly rolled out to even more countries in the days and weeks ahead, it will almost assuredly make Pokémon Go a global phenomenon as well, creating a gaming platform that is universally understood and enjoyed across cultures, geographies and languages.
While the glow of Pokémon Go will no doubt fade over time (as virtually all of these games inevitably do), there’s still plenty of game enhancements being planned on both the user and advertiser side that are likely to fuel interest for the foreseeable future.
For those of you who are still trying to get your arms around the concept, here’s a short video that will help: .
For those of us in travel, the excitement comes from the fact that the game integrates with the real world and people to get out and explore. For so many who have worried that virtual games are keeping people inside and disconnected from society, Pokémon Go should be applauded for its focus on helping people see, enjoy and socialize in the real world around them. Indeed, some medical experts are already heralding the game for its ability to promote exercise, as the amount of walking required to get to PokeStops, capture the Pokémon and collect other assets is often considerable.
To watch thousands of people pour into Central Park late one night upon the announcement that a rare Pokémon character could be captured there, was to see a real-life example of just how powerful the game’s lure can be. Imagine some country or destination being the exclusive home to some rare Pokémon characters, much like that country might be home to its own species of wildlife or cultural offering. Would it be powerful enough to attract gamers who are relentless in their quest to add to their game in ways that others can’t?
If nothing else, Pokémon Go is already a great way for travelers to interact with and explore destinations in a fun and sustained manner, and it creates the opportunity to lead people to those attractions, venues and local details that are often undiscovered and off the beaten path.
Right now, it seems like the most immediate opportunity is to help guide people to PokeStops and Gyms using websites and social media properties to alert people to where they can capture characters.
As Skift has already reported, several destinations are taking advantage of this opportunity, including Visit Anaheim and Travel Portland that have quickly put together pages on their websites that highlight where people can find the various PokeStops, Pokémon characters and Gyms. The added traffic these organizations are reporting for these pages reinforces that this is a relatively easy way to showcase your destination to tap into the enthusiasm for the game and give travelers even more reason to visit and explore your destination.
We’re also hearing success stories from businesses that are purchasing Lure Modules that help to attract Pokémon characters (and the gamers chasing them) to their locations and the cost is as little as $1 for a lure that lasts 30 minutes.
Not surprisingly, Pokémon Go has also triggered the entrepreneurial spirit. It’s been reported that Craigslist has had individuals offer to drive people around Hollywood to help people find characters. And, in Austin, Texas a tour operator is offering the first Pokémon Go City Tours based on the premise that the game is infinitely more fun when done at speed (a fact made all too real when AAA felt compelled to send a warning to motorists that they not attempt to play Pokémon Go while driving).
Beyond finding ways to share the game’s existing assets, what many marketers are asking is how can we more fully integrate our brand and locations into the game itself and what kind of paid opportunities will be available?
As of now, indications are that the paid media opportunities, and with them the chance to establish your own PokeStop or Gym, are being reserved for big brands. App developer Niantic (that helped create the game) has been talking to large brands about sponsorship opportunities and the price tag we’re hearing is upwards of $1 million per year for a two-year commitment. Among those acting quickly is McDonald’s whose sponsorship package includes the creation of Pokémon Gyms in 3,000 of their locations in Japan, allowing players to do battle with their Pokémon characters amidst the golden arches.
It is certainly an opportunity to capture and engage people on site (imagine a hotel chain offering an opportunity to capture rare characters with every stay at every one of their properties). But it’s a high entry price and interested travel advertisers would certainly require some kind of pay per visit or engagement metrics to measure the return on investment. However, in time it’s not unreasonable to expect we’ll see additional paid opportunities develop as demand for local self-serve grows, much like it did with other platforms (Facebook, Twitter) which took a while to evolve their paid advertising approaches.
Regardless of how you tap into the Pokémon phenomena, in a world that seems to be filled with so much violence and unrest it’s nice to see something take off that’s actually focused on bringing people together. As the game’s developers said when they first announced their plans for Pokémon Go, “It was our collective goal that this be a wholesome, fun game that families can enjoy together. It would be an excuse to go outside, get some fresh air, and maybe discover new places together.”
Now that it’s live, Pokémon Go seems to be delivering on much of that promise and that’s something that all of us in travel should not only tap into, but celebrate.