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Pokemon GO could be next big marketing tool for retailers says developer

Coming to a store very near you? Pokemon Go’s developer Niantic is planning to feature sponsored locations, as brands and retailers try and cash in on the game’s rocketing popularity.

The augmented reality game from Japan’s Nintendo Co, where players walk around real-life neighbourhoods to hunt down virtual cartoon characters on their smartphone screens, has more than 65m users in the US just seven days after launch.

The mobile game is currently free to play, but its booming popularity in its launch markets, including Australia and New Zeland, has raised questions of how Niantic plans to monetize the app.

Sponsored locations will feature in the game in future, CEO John Hanke told The New York Times, but didn’t say when.

The developer could charge retailers to become sponsored Pokemon Go locations, which would incentivise people to visit to capture a Pokemon character. Hanke said Niantic had cut similar deals for its predecessor to Pokemon Go, Ingress.

In the US, some agencies and a number of smaller retailers have capitalised on the fact their locations are the source of Pokemon Go characters by putting up signs.

Data from SimilarWeb suggests the app is more popular in the US than Tinder, and possibly more than Twitter in terms of daily active users.

UK users are so desperate to get their hands on the game that fake versions of the app have topped Apple’s App Store downloads in the UK, Campaign reported Wednesday.

The game uses a player’s mobile GPS to show a virtual version of their real-world location on screen, but populated with Pokemon characters. Players are encouraged to move around in real life to capture different characters in different places at different times.

The game is being credited as the first mainstream use of augmented reality, and its popularity has resulted in several unintended side effects. In one instance, one player stumbled across a dead body.

Social media has been alive with reports of Pokemon Go players taking over malls and stores, with mentions of Pokemon in places including Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, H&M, Forever 21 and Sephora, reported WWD.

Players reportedly congregate in popular locations, including, for example, Market Street in San Francisco, which is near Union Square and Westfield San Francisco Centre, and Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade. Westfield and Target declined to comment.