While some public buildings, museums, and cemeteries are scrambling to get their locations de-listed from the wildly popular geocaching app Pokemon Go, several private businesses are already eyeing a great marketing opportunity.
Speaking with The New York Times, app developer Niantic Labs confirms that sponsorships would be coming to the game, just as it previously cut deals with advertisers on Pokemon Go‘s predecessor, Ingress. These may take the form of ordinary Pokestops and gyms, or something unique — and it could also pave the way for cross-promotion and branding opportunities. Limited-time-only exclusive Starbucks Pikachu? It wouldn’t be even remotely weird at this point.
In fact, a lot of businesses are already taking advantage of their proximity to Pokemon Go landmarks in order to entice customers. There are numerous stories of coffee shops and cafes offering discounts to players, even some restricted to one of the in-game factions (go Team Mystic). Even non-profits, like this Indiana animal shelter, have sought to co-opt the game’s popularity in order to spur interest and support from residents. It’s pretty clear that even if Niantic didn’t introduce sponsorships to the game, companies would be doing similar things on their own, so Niantic might as well take a cut of it.
That’s the pragmatic (cynical) view, anyway. You could also argue that part of the beauty of Pokemon Go and Ingress is that it highlights non-commercial aspects of a player’s immediate environment, like works of public art and memorial sites. But not all of those places necessarily want Pokemon Go players in them, which is something visitors ought to respect, honestly — meanwhile, plenty of commercial enterprises are tripping over themselves to invite players in, and so we’re right back at the inevitability of this arrangement. Mobile games run on money, and Pokemon Go needs to make a lot of money to be deemed a success for its parent company.
Niantic has not yet said which companies it’s in talks with over sponsorships, but retail and fast food chains seem like a natural first port of call for an app currently taking over entire countries. Everyone might look pretty foolish in a few months if the game turns out to be a fad, though! I guess we’ll see.
Top image source: Jason Henry, New York Times.