Rarely does an app dominate the news as "Pokémon GO" has. Through looking into the smart phone camera, the game brings digital fantasy monsters into the physical world. The developers at Nintendo are benefiting from a decisive advantage: The power of licence! The toy trade may also use the app itself as a new customer magnet in addition to a new boom in Pokémon license products and game accessories.
Since their birth in 1996, Pokémon games work according to two simple principles: collecting and fighting. The player moves through a world in which the Pokémon live that need to be caught and collected. The game’s inventors have already created around 700 different, mostly animal-like, beings. In addition, the player can let his Pokémon fight against those of other players.
Therein lies one of the charms of the new app Pokémon GO: where previously one only fought against digital opponents, now the player meets real opponents. At the same time, each user is part of one of three global teams that are playing against one another in competition.
And something else has changed: while the player in the 1990´s and 2000´s plunged into a fictional world on game consoles, now he is out and about in the real world. Using the game cards integrated by Google Maps, one can locate monsters, opponents and other starting points and then even reach the corresponding point oneself – preferably on foot.
A reunion with old friends
Behind the hype around the app Pokémon GO – that nobody should doubt after several server crashes due to overly high demand for Nintendo – is more than just a successful augmented reality application. Even the first game edition in 1996 was sold out within a very short time. What followed were more games, licensing, television series, movies and a wild merchandising wave that flooded the toy markets. From trading cards and figures via plush toys to umbrellas - hardly a license was so present worldwide as Pokémon was around the turn of the millennium.
So it is not surprising that not only the target group of children and young adults, but also mid-twenties and thirties are hunting Pokémon on the street, in parks and shopping centres. The players of old have grown up. Nostalgia and the feeling of being a child again could make a real cult game out of the app. Already initial Pokémon GO events in European and American cities with over 1,000 participants are producing headlines.
Products for the toy trade
Even if the Pokémon GO issue will disappear from news headlines relatively quickly, the game itself will definitely hold some new surprises. Already the developers have announced additional features and extensions. The further development of augmented reality technology will ensure the game further upswing for the target audiences. Thus, one can already pre-order the "Pokémon GO Plus" package with a smart bracelet from Nintendo with which the player can participate without constantly looking at one´s mobile phone. The package should be launched in the coming weeks and is likely to have good sales prospects.
The app as a new customer magnet
Those who don’t want to rely on extensions to the app for their sales product range can still take advantage of the game principle. With a little luck, a "gym" for Pokémon battles or "PokéStop", which provides different rewards for players, is already located near one´s own business. These points of contact can be generated out of the game and attract many active players which, with imaginative sales ploys, may enable one to lure players into one's shop. Conceivable ideas include coupons or discounts for captured Pokémon, with which one can advertise eye-catchingly at one's point of sale.
The app itself currently works even without advertising. Developers have announced, however, that in the future there should be an option for businesses to register as a sponsored hotspot. When that will happen is still open. Until then, one can use a simple trick from the app itself: Through in-app purchases one can buy different "bait" in the game. By placing these in one´s shop various Pokémon - and thus Pokémon hunters – can be lured between the shop shelves.
Pokémon Merchandise 2.0
The international world of toys should also prepare itself for a possible new merchandising boom. Already now, Pokémon could be the most important license for Christmas 2016. Also, a new movie will be produced in 2017. Fluffy Pikachu and Squirtle key rings are likely to ensure positive sales expectations when placed as convenience items near the cash register. Chances are that the license will even exceed the success of Angry Birds products, which also took off as a smart phone app.
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