With Pokémon Go rapidly taking over the virtual world, business leaders are keen to find out how they can leverage location-based technology to augment their own reality.
You would have to be living under a rock to have not heard of Pokémon Go (PoGo). Almost every news article, social media post and office water cooler conversation (and this blog) has been talking about it. In fact, there has probably been more coverage dedicated to PoGo than the Brexit vote (I'm glad to see that the world has its priorities straight!).
As someone who works with location-based analytics technology for a living, I have been observing this phenomenon from a different perspective to most, wondering how businesses can learn from the success of PoGo and leverage that success for themselves.
Using location-based analytics and augmented reality apps for client engagement certainly isn’t new (the CBA property app is just one good example), but what PoGo has done is reveal the appetite individuals have to consume information in this format.
For those not in the know, PoGo is a smartphone game where the user must navigate a 3D virtual map, which is based on the real world. Positioning of the player is achieved through their phone’s GPS receiver, and the camera uses augmented reality technology to capture virtual ‘Pocket Monsters’, aka Pokémon. The player uses a variety of techniques to collect, train and battle the creatures on their journey to ‘catch 'em all’ and become the ultimate Pokémon master.
While none of the game elements are new (GPS gaming, augmented reality, massively multiplayer online gaming, Pokémon), the developers seem to have hit a sweet spot of mobile device ownership and peak nostalgia.
The uptake of the game has been mind-blowing. In just one week, PoGo has grown larger than Tinder, and is about to overtake Twitter in number of active daily users. That's right - young singles would rather be out throwing Pokéballs than meeting up for ‘Netflix and chill’.
Of course, the game’s release hasn’t been without controversies, but we have already seen some really positive side effects from the world’s latest obsession: Snorlax-like gamers are getting outside and socialising with fellow players, people are walking to work, dogs are getting more exercise than their little legs can handle and couples are going for drives ‘just because’.
Along with the personal health benefits of increased activity, in Canberra, we have even seen a blood bank report an increase in donations when they put a lure on their location (to attract Pokémon).
It looks like PoGo and location-enabled gaming is the start of something huge, and businesses are taking notice.
Advertising agencies are already scrambling for strategies to take advantage of the location-based opportunities aligned with the phenomenon. Brandon Berger, Ogilvy Worldwide's chief digital officer, was quoted in Wall Street Journal suggesting, "Why couldn't brands participate at a gym location? If you're a beverage brand, or a retailer, or even a real gym, why don't you find gyms and put your brand right around that? Put experience around that?"
Taking the value of location-based apps one step further, there are clearly plans in place to monetise the app with sponsored locations. There are already rumours that The Pokémon Company is pursuing a partnership with McDonald’s, with some canny programmers spying references to the brand and logo within the source code.
But what does this mean for other businesses? Will proximity to a Pokémon battleground be a factor when negotiating retail rents? We have already seen that certain virtual landmarks have drawn unprecedented crowds, where savvy mobile vendors could have seized the opportunity and cashed-in – had they known where to go.
I believe this movement is the next evolution in the pervasiveness of location in technology. The last 15 years has seen a shift from Gregory's to Google, from standardised paper maps to a personalised, digital experience where you are supplied with data catering to your own interests. What PoGo has done is provide a catalyst for the next giant leap.
The blending of the physical and virtual worlds is a light-bulb moment, where we can see a future of recreation and business leveraging the one attribute that brings everything together – location.
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