This article is adapted from betweenwallandmain.com.
By now you’ve probably heard of Pokemon Go, the newest smartphone game with unprecedented popularity. And for good reason: it blends a classic cultural phenomenon with cutting-edge technology, creating an engaging activity with positive outcomes.
The premise is that you wander around capturing Pokemon critters; after you’ve gained experience, you can go to Gyms to battle for control. I was surprised at how much I liked the game: it’s like a treasure hunt in your own neighborhood. You even have the option of turning on your camera for augmented reality, so that the Pokemon characters and features look like they’re right there alongside you (although it does drain your battery quickly).
Here’s why Pokemon Go matters to you:
1. It’s a Scavenger Hunt for Art and History
My kids and I have been spending our evenings walking around the neighborhood capturing Pokemon that appear at random. The map includes “PokeStops,” signposts that activate and dole out prizes when we’re a few feet away. They’re real-life landmarks, delightful highlights right under our noses. Zachary loved discovering the dilapidated shed that had a pink dinosaur spray painted on it. At the park, Carrie was excited by the sculpture of bells we’ve walked by for years, but never noticed. I found a mural a few blocks away I had never passed before.
On a recent trip to Fredericksburg, VA, we used the PokeStops as a guided walking tour of historical sites downtown. The PokeStops took us to the Old Market Square, the city’s Time Capsule, placards describing the abolitionist movement and Fredericksburg’s role in the Civil War, and an inn on the historical register…not to mention the mural of the ostrich with a cherry on its head.
2. It’s a Fun Way to Get Exercise
Note that earlier I said “spending our evenings.” The PokeStops gift us with eggs that hatch into new, more powerful Pokemon. The eggs only hatch after we’ve walked 2 km, 5 km, or 10 km. We’ve been taking family walks not just to visit the Stops, but so that our prize eggs will hatch. One walk led to a laughter-filled collaborative conversion of km to miles (1.25, 3.1, or 6.2 respectively). Along the way, Pokemon appeared for us all to capture. The wild Pokemon and hatching eggs make exercise palatable, giving us random rewards and little endorphin bursts. I’ve walked more in the past week than I did all last month.
3. It’s a Great Way to Spend Time with Your Family
While on our family East Coast road trip this week, my husband drove us through Colonial Beach to see the house he drew up in. As we cruised the coast and beaches, a surprising array of rare Pokemon we’d never seen before popped up. The kids screeched with glee when we looked out the window and saw a live bunny…and then a Ponyta appeared next to it! This lead to a completely memorable hour of giggles and collecting until all our batteries ran out. We were 90 minutes late getting to Nana and Pop-pop’s house, but we didn’t mind a bit.
We even took over a Gym as a family, each of us leaving a creature behind and gaining 10 coins. It was my 8-year-old daughter’s first Gym Battle, and we all cheered her on. Two days later, the Pollkatz family still holds the Gym in Oak Grove, VA!
4. It’s an Untapped Business Opportunity
At lunch on Monday, my colleague Julie waited impatiently while my husband and I discussed Pokemon Go. I pointed out that because we’re computer trainers, I just made her meal tax deductible. She laughed, then created her own account.
And, of course, being the entrepreneur I am, I can’t ignore Pokemon Go’s Lures. A Lure enhances a PokeStop, attracting Pokemon for 30 minutes. It shows up on the map as a glittering pink geyser of confetti. Not only do the Pokemon show up in droves…but so do the players! We’ve seen Lures dropped at Little League games, a concert in the park, a playground. It’s funny to watch the young phone zombies show up and pace around*, catching Pokemon while they hatch their eggs.
The business application of these Lures shouldn’t be ignored. If you’re lucky enough to have a PokeStop near your storefront or restaurant, drop a Lure to draw customers. You might even sponsor an event in a park and place a Lure for free attention. While you get them as prizes as you advance in the game, Lures can also be purchased in the Pokemon game shop for just $0.99. That’s cheap advertising!
After you’ve grown your creatures and made them powerful, you can visit a Pokemon Gym to pit them against each other and other players, as in the original card game. The restaurant around the corner from my house is a Gym (technically, the mosaic fireplace on their outdoor patio is the arena). Last night the players there had fairly weak creatures, so I stopped by and had a pint of hard cider and a plate of pulled pork nachos while I did battle. I didn’t defeat anyone, but I gained a lot of experience points…and had a great meal.
If your business is located near a PokeStop or a Gym, you can also get creative with your promotion. An inc.com article (http://www.inc.com/craig-bloem/how-to-market-yourself-on-pokemon-go-if-your-business-is-not-on-a-pokestop.html) suggests running a marketing campaign asking people to take a screenshot of a Pokemon showing your location on the map, then bring it in for a discount. Niantic, the game’s developer, may eventually offer paid PokeStop sponsored locations.
Until then, ask your kids to show you how to play. Join them on long walks through your neighborhood and the city parks. Drive to a part of town you’ve never explored and find the hidden art. Walk for 6.2 miles and hatch a Flareon or a Jigglypuff. Take pictures of your friends and family hanging out with Pikachu. Join friends for a meal and compete while you eat. You’ll have a great time making memories, even if you never win a battle at a Gym.
*By the way, you DON’T need to stare at your phone as you walk. It will vibrate when a Pokemon shows up. I pointed that out to a group of teenagers. You can imagine the look they gave me.