If you’ve walked outside in any major city in the country this week, you’re likely well aware of the wildfire that is Pokémon GO. For the uninitiated, Nintendo recently released its first location-based augmented reality game, based on the ’90s franchise that imagined fictional animated creatures, or Pokémon, inhabiting the human world. Pokémon GO uses your phone’s GPS and camera to place Pokémon, and the resources you need to play the game, in actual physical locations all around you. In just over a week, the app is currently the most successful mobile game of all time, is on track to be bigger than Snapchat, and it may even overtake Google Maps — the platform that it’s built on!
As part of the game, many real-world landmarks — including historic sites, businesses, interesting pieces of graffiti, or even just bus stops — are transformed into “PokéStops” and “Pokémon Gyms,” where players gain game resources and train their Pokémon, luring huge numbers of the game’s 15 million+ players. Just look at yesterday’s mob in Los Angeles:
A Wartortle just showed up on Santa Monica Pier and HUNDREDS of people ran for it. Absolutely insane #PokemonGO pic.twitter.com/ySfjWMaNYh
— Sam Thorne (@Strippin) July 13, 2016
Attracting Pokémon players
Almost as quickly as the game started, local businesses noticed the uptick in foot traffic, and responded to the opportunity by offering rewards and services directed specifically at game players.
But going a step further, the game allows players to boost specific locations using a “Lure Module” — which lures additional Pokémon, and thus the hordes of game fanatics hoping to “catch them all” to a particular site for 30 minutes. The modules cost $.99 in the game store. And while individuals may be loathe to spend money in a free app, for local businesses ready to reap the benefits, it’s almost a no brainer!
While some locations — most notably Auschwitz and your own home — aren’t the kind of places you want to see a crowd of strangers suddenly turn up to play a game, the power to draw dozens of people to a particular place at a particular time for only 99¢ is a dream come true for music venues and bands.
Here are just a few of the enterprising ways labels, bands, and venues have used Pokémon GO to draw music fans, just in the past week…
Northern Spy Records moves inventory.
Ever the innovator, Brooklyn-based Northern Spy Records are using Pokémon GO to meet fans and move inventory. They posted to Facebook, promising “ample Pokémon gallivanting” around the PokéStop next to their office from 3-5pm (read: they’d be boosting the stop with purchased “Lure Modules” for those hours). Anyone who came out, caught a Pokémon, and brought proof of their capture to Northern Spy’s office got their choice of free record — a perfect way to built brand awareness and loyalty, and get rid of some old stock at the same time!
Hawthorne Theatre hosts a variety of battles.
A Portland, Oregon venue had the good fortune to be named a “Gym” in Pokémon GO and made the most of it for yesterday’s band showcase “Battle for the Vans Warped Tour.” They named the event the “Pokémon GO Edition” of the battle, buying Lures for the venue, hosting drinks specials for game players, and prizes for the player who controlled the Gym — meaning it wasn’t just the bands who could win!
The Brightside gets serious.
This Brisbane, Australia venue has gone above and beyond anyone else we’ve heard about so far — taking the game offline and blending music and love of all things Pokémon into a social club and event series honoring the game and its enthusiasts. The venue is hosting a 9-hour long event, “The Pokémon GO Social Club Meet!” boasting themed cocktails, bulk Lures, trivia, free condoms (so you don’t catch them all), and membership badges, all to bring game fans out to hear some great local bands.
What does it mean for you?
Well, likely nothing in the long term — a fad this big is almost certainly unsustainable. The app has been plagued by server outages that are already leaving users frustrated. In the short term — while we are not advocating that you “lure” people places they woudn’t want to otherwise be under false pretenses — if you suspect your fans are already die hard into the game, there are a few ways to leverage its popularity to engage with them both in the game and in real life.
If you’ve got a show coming up, you may seriously want to consider showing up to the venue early, investing a couple dollars into boosting the local PokéStops, and adding a Pokémon theme to your event to attract extra attention.
If you run a venue, same goes — strategic boost purchasing could be just the thing to help you cash in on the craze. No Stops or Gyms near you? Pokémon execs claim that won’t be an issue much longer, with the game set to roll out sponsored locations in an upcoming release.
And for everyone else, some advice: Please watch where you’re going. Be aware companies might be paying to “lure” you in. Don’t play while you’re driving. Maybe walk a dog in need while you’re at it. And don’t forget to take a break from game play every now and then for a quick musical interlude…