It has been years since I played a video game, unless you count Trivia Crack or Words With Friends on my smart phone. So when I first heard about the release of Pokemon Go, it went right on by as information I did not need to retain.

Then my friends start posting photos of where they captured their latest pocket monster and I became a little more interested in the augmented reality interface that seemed to get people off the couch, out of the house and moving – all to catch virtual cartoon monsters.

I am of the age that missed the Pokemon craze in the 90’s because I was focused on my career, buying a house and planning vacations. I say that not to disparage anyone as so many have been doing on social media, but because I am still doing those things and yet this time, I am very interested.


My companion at the grocery store.

Because I missed the Pokemon release the first time around I didn’t even know how it worked or even what they really were. So let me explain what I have learned for those of you in the same situation. In Pokémon Go, like all of the Pokémon video games, players catch creatures called Pokémon and then train them to fight one another in virtual gyms, which are placed all around towns and parks. It uses an augmented reality interface, which means players walk around outside and capture Pokémon in real locations. They can also walk around and capture useful items at other stops around town. You have likely noticed groups of people in outdoor public places looking at their phones.

It is fun. It is doing what the First Lady has been trying to get us to do for eight years – getting off the couch.

For marketing professionals, this is a gold mine. If people are traveling to various locations in your town or city, there is the immediate and obvious benefit of creating new customers. But think beyond that level of engagement and look at how other apps could work alongside it. For instance, if a local restaurant is a Pokestop (designated location to gather virtual supplies), there could be an option to review the restaurant if the user dined there while capturing their little monsters (and I didn’t mean their kids).

What about journalists? How could newsrooms make themselves available to the many people who are participating in augmented reality spaces who are now part of a much larger network? What does commenting or communication look like in on these platforms?

What about the massive amounts of metadata being collected by Pokémon Go? Using GPS technology, the time and location of approximately 9.5 million daily active users is likely very valuable. Then there is the power of the networked group as a whole, which will likely build other connections within the data.


Pokemon Go players on the hunt.

Other potential uses of the augmented reality data collection could be more civically minded. For instance, could it be set so Pokémon Go players can track and report potholes in a city? If we could create experiences with incentives to share progress, participants could become part of a larger community? This is already happening on a small scale when people capture Pokémon and then take a picture of the capture, which they then share on social media. While doing so, they meet other people who are also playing the game. This has been a natural evolution to social connections and sharing.

There are many things to learn from this phenomenon. What kind of storytelling is happening organically through the augmented reality? What other things might people have in common beyond the game?

Pokémon Go is certainly not following any normal launch process. The engagement level is off the charts, which has resulted in some server issues causing significant down times over the past week. Considering this is a free app, the loyalty of users to hang in there during these dark hours speaks volumes as to the possibilities that are out there…just walking around.

Melody K. Smith, Blog Wrangler
Access Innovations