Pokemon Go has quickly become the most downloaded mobile game ever and became the top grossing app in the US in just 13 hours. It attracts 21 million users daily, between 4 and 5 million downloads, and generates 1.6 million dollars. Daily. Yes, that’s right. Daily. The game has been released in over 26 countries and Niantic, the company that developed the game, plans to release it into 174 more countries, bringing the total to 200. Calling the game, which is free and has no ads, a huge success would be an understatement.[¹] [²]
Niantic didn’t tap into some secret formula for this success. They just hit the target market perfectly with a blast of nostalgia. For millennials, like myself, this game is what we always wanted life to be like growing up. We wanted to be Pokemon trainers. To go out into the world and capture our favorite monsters was a dream we had since Red and Blue version came out in 1998. This game, despite its early problems, lets us do exactly that. It’s social, it’s exploration based, and most importantly it is fun. I don’t expect it to lose a lot of steam, especially with the rumored release of “Gen II” and trainer battles. The marvel and awe of the augmented reality option when capturing Pokemon wore off for most players rather quickly, but that’s mostly due to flaws with the app. The more casual players will drop off sooner, rather than later. It seems like that will be staggered, though. With the older segment sticking around until they are bored with the game, or lose interest in the Pokemon (“genwunners”). The next will most likely drop off after the supposed release of Gen II. Eventually, the game will be just Pokefans, and that’s okay. There’s plenty of us to go around, as proven by The Pokemon Company’s consistent billion dollar plus revenue.
From the marketing perspective, the opportunities to advertise and market using this app are incredible. There are already rumors abound about Niantic’s plans to work with sponsors. The players are cautious of advertisers, however. The worst thing Niantic could do at this point is to allow video, audio, or picture ads in between screens. For a game that so heavily relies on timing and immersion, forcing users to watch/listen to 15-second ads after finally catching that Dragonite, or making them click on a tiny “X” in the corner of an ad after swiping a Pokestop would be game-breaking for most users. Rather than having these immersion breaking ads, the suggested course of action from most of the community would be to let businesses buy Pokestops or gyms. These purchases could be temporary/contractual or permanent. Allowing business to participate in this way makes the most sense, that is because Pokemon Go encourages players to go out into the world and players want to go where the Pokestops are. This type of advertisement would benefit restaurants, coffee shops, bars, salons, and galleries the most. These types of businesses generally welcome the increased foot traffic and require patrons to be in the area for an extended period of time. [³]
Having a Pokestop on or near your business is a great marketing tool because it allows you to set down a “lure module” (lures draw in Pokemon to that stop for 30 minutes). Many places are already taking advantage of this. A local bar in my town is placing lures during non-peak hours to draw in players, the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans recently held an after hours Pokemon Go event, and I’ve seen multiple ads on Facebook where the business posted a picture of a Pokemon in their store. Some places are even offering discounts and specials depending on what team you are on, discounts if you catch Pokemon in store, or new menu items based on Pokemon and Pokemon Go.
The opportunities for advertising, the game, and the players are out there. It’s just up to Niantic on how, and if, they are brought about. Niantic’s early reluctance to communicate makes me cautious, but recently they have been more forthcoming with information. As a player and a marketer, I’m hopeful for the future of Pokemon Go.
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