“Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.

Something interesting is happening.”

-Tom Goodwin
Senior vice president of strategy and innovation at Havas Media

 

Our world is getting more creative with how we connect digitally. Last week, we were introduced to another one of these anomalies. Pokémon Go, the most popular U.S. mobile game in history, is played outside. The entire game is played on users’ phones, which is to be expected in today’s world, but is so well integrated with real life that most of its assets are borrowed from the outside world.

 

The game uses actual real estate, for which it pays nothing

 

Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game in which players can find and catch the original Pokémon creatures anywhere. Of course the creatures don’t really exist, but the coordinates used for PokéStops, Gyms and Pokémon hangouts are physical locations (If you’re unfamiliar with these terms, don’t worry. There’s literature). Schools, parks, churches and more are being pulled unknowingly into the virtual reality of the game.

In some instances the game is a nuisance, but some businesses are actually paying to draw Pokémon to their locations. Lure Modules, which make PokéStops more attractive to Pokémon, can be purchased either through Pokécoins or with real money. What a way to market. For $5, a restaurant could bring in a crowd of Pokémon trainers during peak hours. Nintendo is getting businesses to pay them to have users play the game at their location.

 

Something interesting is happening. And it’s happening locally.

 

Over the past week, I consistently heard that Ellicott City was teeming with Pokémon. So yesterday, one week after the game’s release, I took to the streets of the Historic District to find out what the local Pokémon Go scene looked like.

I tagged along with two friends who were playing, but even if I had gone without them I wouldn’t have been alone. From where I parked I could see at least 30 people clumped together, staring at their phones, caught up in the game. Our group of three joined the crowd gathered behind the Howard County Tourism building. One player even set up a hammock close to a Lure and let the Pokémon come to him.

Once we captured all we could from that stop, we ventured down Main Street. One friend realized he hadn’t eaten and asked if we could stop for food. We ducked into Phoenix Emporium for some drinks and

dinner. The Pokémon were on Main Street, so we stopped in to eat on Main Street. Without having even downloaded the app, I felt the affect of Pokémon Go on my purchasing decisions.

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As soon as our checks came, my friends were ready to head back up the street, in hot pursuit of a Dragonair that had come into view. Groups of players were on the same trail, alerting everyone around them where exactly to find it. It was such a strange sight; cheering from those who caught the imaginary creature and frustration among those it evaded.

Walking back to my car, I passed two store windows decorated with a sign that says, “Pokémon Go players get 10% off!” While some businesses are investing in Lure Modules, others are capitalizing on the area’s foot traffic by offering incentives.

How long this phenomenon will last, we don’t know. But within just one week, we have seen on a very local level its social and economic effects. Businesses are using virtual reality to make very real profits, and “Lure Module” could soon be a word commonly found in a marketing strategy.

 

 

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