The Pokémon Go craze, which has exploded world-wide in the past few months, has the potential to drive customers to your business, boost tourism, help parents re-connect with their computer-addicted children and also take off a few pounds.
What’s not to like about this mobile app Pokémon Go for “i-Phone” and Android devices which turns a walk around your city into an augmented reality game?
The game encourages players to collect monsters or “Pokémons,” who appear on phone screens as if they were in the same real-world location as the player, at locations around a neighbourhood or city. Using their phone’s GPS tracker, players can walk down Ouellette Avenue in Windsor, for instance, and viewing a real map of the area on their phones, they can catch nearby “Pokémons” as they appear on the screen by clicking on an icon on their phone.
They can also track “Pokéstops” where players can collect items such as eggs, “Poké Balls” and potions. Players can also take advantage of lures, which businesses can use for periods up to 30 minutes, to attract game-players to their establishments.
“When I heard it was another mobile computer game, I had my doubts because I wasn’t sure the world needed another,” says Mark Boscariol, a father and Owner of downtown’s Snackbar-B-Q (39 Chatham Street East; SnackbarBQ.ca) and the Willistead Restaurant (1840 Wyandotte Street East; TheWillistead.com).
But, now that Boscariol has realized Pokémon Go is driving customers to his downtown restaurant and helping him find an activity he and 11 year old son Andreas can share, he’s sold on it.
“I can take my son to Jackson Park where he can chase Pokémon Go characters, but when we go he can also check out the memorial signs around the park and gain some knowledge of the city where he lives,” says Boscariol. “And at least this game gets you out of the house.”
Boscariol has also noticed that the game is driving customers downtown to Snackbar-B-Q, largely by chance. A year or so ago, someone snapped a photo of a mural inside the restaurant and submitted it to Niantic, the company which controlled Ingress, Pokémon Go’s forerunner.
Players attending those locations in person often receive tools which allow them to play the game more effectively. Businesses are also able to offer discounts or other promotional items to those customers.
Robert Carnevale, 27, says the game takes him back to his childhood when he played the original “Pokémon” game on his “GameBoy.”
“The difference is that this game forces you to go out into the real world and socialize with fellow players rather than sitting at home playing,” states Carnevale, who has organized a number of hunts in the past month or so.
He adds, “I’ve been downtown and eaten in more restaurants in the past month than I have in the past five years. I’ve become acquainted with the Cenotaph Memorial near City Hall because that’s where I spend some of my time on this game and it has given me a greater appreciation for my city. I would say I have walked 200 kilometres in the past month and that’s 200 more than I would have walked otherwise.”
Among the other favourite hangouts for Pokémon Go players, is the large locomotive engine, which sits in Windsor’s riverfront park area adjacent to Dieppe Gardens.
Theresa Lecours of Silver Tee Golf and Virtual Gaming Centre (1360 Highway #3, Oldcastle; SilverTeeGolf.com) is another business owner who is tapping into the game’s popularity and pulling players towards her business.
Silver Tee has also become a virtual gym, which is used for team-based king-of-the-hill virtual matches. Gyms are usually located at places of interest and are also re-purposed portals from Ingress.
“I realized we had a gym at our place when I saw a bunch of kids running towards our sign,” says Lecours. “I thought we should find a way to take advantage of it and tap in.”
As a result, Lecours now offers game-players a free bucket of range balls if they show their Pokémon Go app and their Silver Tee app. They also receive a free 19th hole bonus game ball which can be used with the purchase of a round of mini golf for a chance at a $100 prize.
“Social media and online gaming apps are where it’s at in many businesses today and you have to be willing to take a chance at something entirely new,” Lecours advises. “It seems to be generating some interest and I’m hoping it will continue to grow.”
Graphics and logo courtesy of Niantic
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