I know, I know, Pokemon Go isn’t explicitly related to travelling. However, I’m interested in the implications Pokemon Go has for travel and tourism. Bear with me.
Set the scene, please.
Some of you out there may be reading this thinking, please lady, I need no introduction. I’ve been catching Pokemon since I was in the womb.
And others may also be reading this thinking, mate, what the hell are you blabbering on about this time?
Putting it into context: Pokemon Go is a new gaming app that’s been released for this generation of smartphone. It taps into the GPS, camera, internet and motion capabilities of the device, and requires the player to physically walk around in an augmented reality scenario (a.k.a. Virtual Reality without having to wear a gigantic headset) to try to capture a mix of adorable and ferocious Japanese monsters … or, Pokemon. Once the player’s collection is big enough, they can try to pit the strengths of their Pokemon against other player’s Pokemon, and battle it out to see who’s superior.
Part of the game’s success is due to its ability to transcend ages. Lots of players have experienced the Pokemon phenomenon as a child. Others see it as an opportunity to connect with their children. And, you know, some kids (Young and old) out there are going wild for the fact that it’s just as good as having Pokemon brought to life.
And the game is free.
There’s more to this story, though, isn’t there?
The thing about Pokemon is that it transcends international barriers. Pokemon Go has already been released throughout Oceania, the UK and the US, however, at the time of writing it hasn’t been introduced to Japan as was originally intended by the publisher, Niantic. The popularity of the game has been so intense that the servers (The infrastructure that supports and runs the game) have been crashing on a regular basis, making them vulnerable to attacks from hacker groups.
Even crazier stories have emerged due to the game - tales of players discovering dead bodies and also being targets of petty crime. Earlier in the week, Sydneysiders pegged water bombs and eggs at players to deter them from hanging around one of the local parks.
Considering its popularity, Pokemon Go has a lot of potential for marketing initiatives. One suggested means of attracting customers to businesses has been around buying the rights for certain Pokemon. For example, McDonalds purchasing Pikachu and ensuring they would only appear within its franchises. Or, potentially having place-specific events that would ensure a player could encounter and catch rare and powerful Pokemon.
At this stage, the main way that the app is generating an income is through micro-transactions. Players are paying for extra features within the game to enhance their experience.
This is a travel blog, so tell us about how Pokemon Go relates to travel.
Being a fan of the game myself, I’ve seen it transform the way I view my hometown. One aspect of the game requires players to explore the world around them to find ‘Pokestops’ - places that, when discovered, can give the player a number of items to improve their gaming experience, and enable them to capture more Pokemon.
Searching for these Pokestops have forced me to look for murals, paintings, signage and public buildings that I didn’t even have a clue existed. Extraordinary things that I’ve doubtless passed by a million times on my way to work, to the shops, or even to meet up with friends. Imagine exploring an entire world through the lens of Pokemon Go: where you have to stop, just for a moment, to appreciate some of the hidden treasures that we have right around us.
You know, like when you’re travelling.