Gain marketing insights, consumer behaviour trends and creative inspiration from team BTI
Newsletter Signup
Posted by Divij Khithani on July 22, 2016

In case you haven’t heard, Pokémon Go has become a cultural phenomenon in cities everywhere. The game is a modern twist on the classic Pokémon games for Nintendo devices, but instead of playing as an imaginary character in a fake world, you get to play as yourself in (almost) the real world. With some help from smartphone cameras, GPS, Google Maps, and augmented reality (AR), Pokémon Go allows its players to catch Pokémon based on where they are in the real world, and actually interact with the game through augmented reality software in the app. The game was developed by Niantic Inc, a developer lab that spun out of Google’s Google Earth division, in collaboration with Nintendo and The Pokémon Company. Within a matter of days, the game has not only encouraged over 30 million downloads, pushing users to get up and “go” catch Pokémon, but is also proving to have some serious marketing potential. Marketers can learn a lot from Pokémon Go, as it is now the biggest mobile game in US history.

It Comes Down To The Bottom Line

Your game must make business sense and generate ROI. With the success of Pokémon Go, many retailers are receiving an influx in traffic. Locations around cities are designated as “PokéStops” or “Gyms”, where players can receive special items, find specific Pokémon, and/or battle Gym Leaders. This being said, many of these special designations are placed in retail stores, so players have been travelling to a number of stores, and in turn, have boosted traffic. In fact, McDonald's in Japan has already been in talks with Nintendo on a deal to make their locations significant access points in the game. Pokémon go will soon be offering advertising in a revolutionary Cost Per Visit model. Not only does Niantic generate revenue for third party businesses through their PokéStop and Gym concepts, but also generates millions each day through in app purchases, consuming almost 50% of mobile purchases. The key takeaway from this business model is that games with intrusive display ads are not necessarily the optimal way to generate revenue, rather, newer strategies that creatively get customers to enter stores are much more effective.

Humans Are Social Animals

One of the best implementations of location-based gaming, Pokémon Go’s most significant characteristic is its presence off-screen. The nature of the game somewhat forces users to leave their homes and travel to public areas in order to “catch 'em all”. This constant activity and the necessity to always be walking in order to do well in the game, has produced widespread social activity. Competition with other players to "catch 'em all", reach high levels, and dominate gyms drives the popularity. Finally, one of the most social features of the game would have to be “Lures”, virtual devices that can be “activated” in an area, attracting Pokémon, and enticing swarms of players to gather around for the length of the lure. Users have been found all over the world, congregating around lures in their areas, and simply catching Pokémon and meeting new people. Often technology brings us closer to our screens, and further from nature and people, but Pokémon has done the exact opposite. People love being a part of something bigger, and forming communities; if games and apps can form a culture, then users are more willing to invest time and money to further progress their personal involvement in the community.

Nostalgia Sells

Pokémon Go was launched with the original 150 Pokémon to begin. This triggered nostalgia among the crowd that played the original game 20 years ago. It has been calculated that 58.8% of adult users are between 18 and 24, and 33.2% are between 25 and 34. It has long been said that millennials respond well to nostalgia, and this app proves it again and again.

With the increased complexity and capability of phones, the rise of AR and VR technologies, and the continued growth in Millenial buying power, Pokémon Go has not only changed the landscape for App development, but initiated a new generation of immersive digital marketing.