Pokémon GO What?
By Aly Van Dyke
I GET IT. Pokémon GO players, or “PoGo” for short,aren’t always the best customers: they’re zombies feeding on their phones. However, the Pokémon GO frenzy is not something to snub or ignore—it wasn’t the first app to use augmented reality (a merging of the virtual and real worlds), and it won’t be the last.
There is talk in certain circles that Niantic Labs, the company that developed Pokémon GO, is working on a similar app featuring Harry Potter. And, of course, there are rumors about updates to Pokémon GO that are assured to renew interest—the Niantic founder has said that they’ve only released about 10 percent of their ideas so far. Not to mention the other app development companies that are likely to capitalize on the success the of the Pokémon GO concept.
For those of you non-PoGo players, the goal of the game is relatively simple: catch as many Pokémon as possible, defeat opposing teams by battling the Pokémon you catch at gyms, and level up your character for better chances at both. Pokémon pop up at different locations, only to disappear minutes later. By walking around to catch these moving targets, you can also hatch Pokémon, which is why you often hear about PoGo being a fitness app.
Pokémon GO started strong, with 500 million in downloads in its first two months—that’s how many people have Twitter now, after a decade on the market. The interest has since cooled – after an astounding 74 days at the top of the app chart, Pokémon GO lost its title to Bitmoji.Despite being kicked out of its top spot, usage remains staggering: One research firm estimates that 1 in 10 people in the U.S. are still playing. And with the rumored roll outs from Niantic, the numbers will likely spike again in time.
The augmented reality bit about Pokémon GO, and other apps sure to follow in its wake, is important. It requires gamers go outside to play – taking them to parts of the City they might not frequent.
I’ve personally seen the rose garden at Gage Park at night packed with at least 100 people trying to catch Pokémon. Kansas Avenue and the surrounding blocks always seem to have players. Washburn University and the Ted Ensley Gardens at Lake Shawnee are other huge draws—all beautiful places in our community some of these players hadn’t taken the time to appreciate before.
While Pokémon appear seemingly at random, the Pokémon GO app has another tool to attract users to various locations: PokéStops. PokéStops are predetermined locations in the app that reflect real places in the world. Do you know the closest stops to your business?
PokéStops, especially PokéStops with lures attached to them (noted by rose petals in the app), work like magnets to PoGo players. PokéStops give players supplies. Lures attract the creatures to the location for 30 minutes at a time.
Topeka has seen a Pokémon GO pub crawl, and NOTO Arts District had a huge Pokémon event earlier this summer, involving hidden treasures, specials and, of course, lures.
Even the Topeka Zoo got on board the PoGo train. It quickly discovered there were about a dozen PokéStops on the zoo grounds. So it stayed open late and offered six, roughly three-hour Pokémon safaris. The safaris raised $13,297.04; that comes to about $700 per hour. The events brought nearly 4,600 people to the Zoo. People who hadn’t been to the zoo in years.
So if you missed the PoGo train, it’s time to get a ticket for the next one. There are several places to learn about upcoming trends, including:
Topics trending on Twitter and Facebook
Reddit (/r/technology and /r/ pokemongo, for starters)
App Store Top Charts
Friends and family
The next time a gaming trend sweeps the nation, don’t just toss it aside as being too complicated or off your target customer. Take the time to learn about the trend, talk to people who use it, or play it yourself. Unique marketing opportunities are all around you, if you are willing to look for them.
Several businesses have used nearby PokéStops to their advantage:
By creating drinks, t-shirts and other products that appeal to teams (PoGo has three teams to choose from for gym battles).
By offering specials to people who play or prove they dropped a lure at the nearest PokéStops. Remember: PokéStops attract the creatures in the game and the people playing it, so a lure dropped by one is almost guaranteed to attract more players (customers).
By having employees who play post rare catches or specials on social media. There is a Facebook page and Twitter account specifically for Pokémon GO players in Topeka – you can post your specials, events and catches there to let the Topeka PoGo community know what’s up. Speaking as a user: These messages are best received when they come from people who actually play.
Aly Van Dyke is the Director of Media Relations for the City of Topeka