Quickly earning the title “most popular mobile game in history” Pokemon Go was the most popular game this summer. Fortune reported that Pokemon Go surpassed Candy Crush Saga, the previous most popular game in the U.S., within the first 24 hours of the game having been released. The game allows players to walk around their towns while attempting to find, capture and train Pokemon characters which are placed in the real world.
Players flock to landmark locations that act as PokeStops, which are basically where players can collect items they need in the game, and gyms, which is where they can train their Pokemon and do battle against other trainers.
The game was developed by Niantic but the Pokemon franchise, which is owned by Nintendo, and the Pokemon Company are major backers of the game. Pokemon Go already offers in-app purchases, but the developers have already found another way to make money off the game’s popularity — “sponsored locations” in the form of a pay per visit model.
The CEO of Niantic, John Hanke, suggested in an interview with the Financial Times that advertisements would soon be making an appearance in the game in the form of “sponsored locations.” In this model, retailers and other companies have the option to sponsor locations and, in turn, the advertisers would pay Niantic based on the number of visits they receive as a result of the game.
This model has proven successful for Niantic in the past. Ingress, another game by the company, used a similar sponsorship deal to partner with retailers like Jamba Juice and Zipcar. Several analysts agree that being able to encourage players to go to a particular building or store has potential for significant monetization of Pokemon Go.
A pizzeria in New York has already seen success using the game; however, they have not paid to be a sponsored location. The business simply paid for the $10 in-app purchase that attracts Pokemon to bring people into their restaurant. In an interview with The New York Post the owner of the restaurant said that business was up 75 percent after purchasing the in-app purchase that brought a dozen Pokemon to come to his restaurant.
The pizzeria is not the only business who used Pokemon to attract visitors. The Chicago Art Institute tweeted a series of pictures of Pokemon throughout the museum with the caption “Pokemon have invaded the Art Institute! Catch them if you can and find 14 PokeStops around the museum #PokemonGo.” Many businesses and organizations have attempted to attract visitors in a similar fashion, boasting a large number of PokeStops and Pokemon spotting around their buildings.
There are obviously going to be certain types of businesses that would benefit more from a partnership with Pokemon Go than others. If your business is a clothing store, most likely you do not want a ton of people going through your stock and handling your inventory if it will not result in a purchase. An inexpensive food or candy shop would be the perfect fit for this model.
In an article for the Wall Street Journal, Brandon Berger, chief digital officer of Ogilvy Worldwide, said that he has been working with his creative teams to brainstorm ideas on how brands might be able to capitalize on Pokemon Go so they would have something to tell clients when and if they asked. He started asking questions like “Why can’t a brand participate in a gym location?”
The article goes on to suggest things like bringing samples or promote your brand, even paying for Wifi at PokeStops and gyms that already exist. But think about this, if a large fast-food chain such as McDonald’s were to pay for their restaurant to become a PokeStop or gym, their business would be directly impacted for the better.
The mobile gaming industry will be keeping tabs on this new advertising philosophy Pokemon Go has adopted, given the game’s unique origins. Nintendo only recently started branching out from their traditional philosophy of treating their games like media property, all the while their competitors have been using advertising messages in their games for years. On the other hand, Niantic, which was a brainchild of Google, so they have some resources which know a thing or two about digital advertising and leveraging consumer behaviors to target ads.
So let’s recap, in simple terms, businesses can choose to pay to be featured prominently on the game’s virtual map, with the hopes that customers will come inside their facilities. Like Google’s search advertising “cost per click,” advertisers will be charged based on the number of visits they receive.
In the long run, Pokemon’s reputation still belongs to Nintendo. It might be too early for any of the involved parties to celebrate their success, but it will not stop them from trying this new model to help increase advertising profits.