Monday, July 18, 2016

Pokemon Reality

The last two weeks have reminded me that I'm old and I blame Pokemon Go.  I'm a half-generation too old even to approach it as a nostalgia item.  Also, the MSD (Middle School Daughter, for those of you that had forgotten) is too tied up in UnderTale and listening to 8-bit soundtracks to care about Pikachu and friends.  No, my generation got Garbage Pail Kids and ain't no one making a phone game out of those.


So, I'm old because I don't want to go chasing around the southwestern american desert in the summer racking up data charges looking for virtual cockfighting contestants.  Instead, I want to look at the whole phenomenon as the first real use of Augmented Reality in a marketing campaign.

It's Not What You Caught, But Where You Caught It

That's right: Pokemon Go is a marketing campaign disguised as a game.  And what they are marketing is not the in-game purchases or Pokemon as a brand.  Instead, Niantic is marketing YOU to restaurants and retailers.  Here's a few news stories on the subject:

  • Niantic is taking requests - It starts with them soliciting requests fir gyms and Pokestop locations.  And those requests come with no promises, just that they will review them.  However, those requests give them some idea of where people want to go outside of the obvious.
  • Niantic teases 'sponsored' locations - Currently, if you want to attract Pokemon trainers to your place of business, you can purchase a 'Lure Module' in app that will attract Pokemon for half-an-hour.  Niantic wants to go farther, the way that they did with Ingress.
  • Another rumor has Fast Food getting in on the action - This one is both a continuation on the 'sponsored location' thing and unsubstantiated, but I can imagine both McExecutives and McFranchisees salivating over this.

Killer Pikachu

Much of the language in those articles is cautionary, but it should not be.  It should be celebratory.  This is the killer app for Augmented Reality.  This is where everyone starts to see where this can go.  It's a silly little game with questionable morals around the treatment of virtual animals (PET-VA Rise!).  But that's not what makes it killer.  It's the fact that it is driving people outside, making them look at the world and remember that they used to go shopping, that there are more than chain restaurants in their neighborhood.  It has potential to drive local business.

Will it stay that way?  Certainly not.  Eventually, there will be more games with more location sponsors that will eventually lead to point fatigue (as is posited in this video.)  By then, there will be a Pokemon hiding in every cereal box, a SkyLander emerging from every Happy Meal, a MyLittlePony galloping through every Wal-Mart.

On the plus side, the advertising dollars spent on this stuff will not be spent on older, more traditional media: billboards, radio ads, TV spots and (against my blogging best interests) web page banner ads.  The clutter will move out of real life and into another reality.

One that we can shut off.  For now.

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