Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you’ve probably heard something or other about Pokémon GO; an augmented reality game that has seemingly caught the attention of every man and his Herdier (Google it) across the world.
In a nutshell, Pokémon GO is a free, location-based augmented reality mobile game. Having created themselves an avatar, players then have to find and catch Pokémon characters in their real world surroundings. When a player finds a Pokémon, the phone’s camera displays the it on-screen as though it were in the real world. Pretty neat, eh?
For the iconic gaming brand, Nintendo, who have struggled to keep up with the likes of Xbox and PlayStation in the next-gen console war, the game has been an absolute Godsend.
If the worldwide media frenzy alone wasn’t enough for Nintendo, then the fact that the game became the most downloaded smartphone app in the USA within the first three days of its release (sending their share value soaring as a result) should more than suffice.
And in many ways, Xbox and PlayStation’s marketing departments will be kicking themselves because, seemingly out of the blue, Nintendo have tapped into the core and truly captured the essence of augmented reality. With very little marketing, Nintendo have achieved the Holy Grail for any brand; a viral campaign where (free) word-of-mouth has proved to be the most powerful advertising format.
The result is a fresh, innovative game that encourages brand engagement like no other on the market. If ever evidence of this was needed, let us present exhibit A: New York’s Central Park.
Pokemon GO is just insane right now. This is in Central Park. It’s basically been HQ for Pokemon GO. pic.twitter.com/3v2VfEHzNA
— Jonathan Perez (@IGIhosT) July 11, 2016
More refreshing still is that Nintendo have created something that actively encourages users to explore the outside world, inadvertently working as a form of exercise. This is particularly important for people with anxiety and depression, who often find social interaction and leaving their house a challenge.
#PokemonGO is going to do wonders for my mental health, providing me with purpose and reason to go outside at last.
— Drew Dale (@drwdal) July 6, 2016
The game has given sufferers a new lease of life. Even though that might not have been Nintendo’s intention, the inadvertent positive implications for their brand image must come as a welcome surprise.
Reports suggest that the game may soon be compatible with Google’s Cardboard VR gear; that there are currently 43m active virtual reality users worldwide will only have Nintendo’s bigwigs salivating even more. If Pokémon GO has successfully managed to cause disruption within the gaming world, then the implications for the advertising and marketing industry may prove to be just as significant.
Unsurprisingly, brands are already using social media as a platform for engagement, creating conversation with their audience to promote either their product, or the fact that their stores are actually in-game Poké Stops; locations where players can catch Pokémon.
— Best Buy News (@BBYNews) July 11, 2016
Furthermore, John Hanke, Chief Executive of Niantic (the game’s developer), told the New York Times that sponsored locations within the game will appear in the near future.
Imagine, for example, your local Apple store being the only place where you could catch that elusive Mew or Zapdos. Pokémon successfully caught, next thing you know, you’re walking out of the store with an iPad! OK, that may be a little extreme, but nevertheless, the opportunity for brands to offer exclusive in-store deals to the game’s users is a real possibility.
Nintendo haven’t given an official release date for Pokémon GO in Europe, only stating that the game will be coming ‘soon’. As frustrating as this may be for gamers, this period should serve as the perfect excuse for European businesses and brands to develop their marketing strategy for the game’s release.
And we can’t wait to see what they have in store for consumers.