How Pokemon Go Can Actually Strengthen Your Business
If you haven’t heard of Pokemon Go yet, I would like to be invited to your private island where news can’t reach. On July 6th, Pokemon Go was released for iOS and Android phones in the United States, and it immediately became a global phenomenon. Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game created by Niantic, a company that was originally created as an aspect of Google in 2010, but recently spun off into an independent entity last year in 2015.
In 2013, Niantic released Ingress, previously one of the most popular augmented reality games on the app market. Naturally, it was dethroned by Pokemon Go fairly quickly, but its success is part of why The Pokemon Company chose Niantic. In fact, the data gathered from Ingress was used to populate locations for both Pokestops and Pokemon gyms.
If you don’t believe us about Pokemon Go’s meteoric rise to fame, this chart from sensortower.com should convince you.
It’s no surprise that a company spun off from Google is paving the way for augmented reality games. One of Google’s many philosophies is that virtual reality should be accessible to all, and they believe that smartphones will pave the way to that future. With their endorsement of Pokemon Go, they’ve put their money where their mouth is.
Although augmented reality isn’t as fully immersive as virtual reality, they’re cut from the same cloth. You see, augmented reality games take virtual elements, such as pokemon, and impose them on the real world via digital displays. While the pocket sized monsters of Pokemon Go are kid friendly and cartoonish in design, the Pokemon are shown interacting with the real world by combining visuals from a mobile device’s camera with digital models. Many people have been enjoying taking screenshots of the wild Pokemon they discover in unusual or thematically appropriate places.
This Pokestop sandwich board is just one of the many that have been popping up in the wake of Pokemon Go’s success.
But Pokemon Go isn’t interesting just for what it’s doing for current technology; it’s made a huge impact on society as well. We’re not just talking about the sudden explosion of twenty-somethings leaving the house to wander the streets, something our parents have been trying to get us to do for years. Millennials, the primary players of Pokemon Go, are one of the largest demographics with purchasing power today, and a lot of businesses have clued into that. Right now, it’s primarily been local restaurants and municipal buildings, such as libraries and police stations, that use their status as Pokestops to cash in on the craze, but larger corporations like Sam’s Club have also recently released promotions for Pokemon Trainers. T-Mobile, the cell phone service “un-carrier” company, even announced that all data used by the Pokemon Go app will be counted as free, in addition to giving out Pokemon Go related prizes as part of their T-Mobile Tuesdays.
But a new marketing outlet isn’t the only benefit Pokemon Go can offer corporate businesses. For many business professionals, Pokemon Go may seem like just another video game, or possibly even a workplace distraction. However, there is one way in which this app might actually be a blessing in disguise.
Many companies have workplace wellness programs in place to help keep their employees healthy, often involving exercise tracking via tools such as the FitBit. But motivating employees to take part in wellness programs is one of the biggest challenges many companies face. The key advantage that Pokemon Go has over other wellness programs is that the company doesn’t have to offer incentives themselves. While many use incentives such as company swag or gift cards to encourage participation, Pokemon Go rewards players for getting out and exercising as part of the game. And though some Pokemon can be caught around the office, trainers need to travel to different locations in order to catch a wide variety, and some Pokemon can only be obtained from eggs, which requires the trainers to travel a certain amount of distance before they hatch.
However, that doesn’t mean employers can’t take it upon themselves to sweeten the deal. Pokemon super-spawners called lures, which can be bought cheaply from the app store, can be placed on Pokestops. Many restaurants and local business that are Pokestops will drop lures, or offer discounts to trainers who drop them, because they draw in business. But Pokestops are often landmarks too, and for a little incentive to get trainers out and about, managers and supervisors could drop a lure in a specific location and announce it to employees.
Pokemon Go has easily over-taken most forms of social media in terms being of most used phone app this year. Image courtesy of similarweb.com
And beyond the obvious benefits of stretching your legs, the game seems to already be bringing employees together on a more personal and social level. At the IBM office in Littleton, Massachusetts, a small contingent of about 12 employees have begun meeting up at a park not far from the office during their lunch breaks. Though most of them are from different teams in the company, they have an easy rapport. Why? Because they have Pokemon Go in common.
We’ve talked in the past about employee engagement, and one of the things stressed by experts is how important it is for employees to have friends at work. Pokemon Go gives people common ground that they can talk about together, making it a great icebreaker and way for people to get to know each other. Even better, Pokemon Go inspires the spirit of “coopertition,” where teams that cooperate with each other still work competitively. In large companies, coopertition can take the form of two teams competing against each other to create a product or fulfill a goal. In many cases, these teams may end up working to sabotage each other, or at least undermine each other’s success. The competition stops being about making the best possible product, and becomes about being the winning team.
In Pokemon Go, however, trainers join one of three teams: Valor, Mystic, or Instinct, which compete against each other for control of Pokemon Gyms. However, this competition doesn’t stop players from informing each other when rare Pokemon show up, or helping new players with any questions they may have, regardless of what team they’re on. This cooperative knowledge sharing allows all players to enjoy the game despite being on opposing sides. For office teams that just can’t seem to get along, this may be a good way to get them to understand why helping each other is more productive than pure competition.
There are many good reasons to allow employees to play Pokemon Go around the office, but like all things, it’s best kept in moderation. Players should be keeping play time to lunch breaks, and not letting it interfere with their work. Many are good about keeping the game off during work, so don’t let one bad Exeggcute spoil the fun for everyone. An office-wide Pokemon Go team could help bring your office together and improve unit productivity!