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And just like that, a new craze is upon us. Pokémon GO has actually been in development for over two years, with the usual series of field tests and beta versions—but many of us had never heard of the game until a few weeks ago, when it muscled its way into global headlines.
Now of course the original Pokémon was huge in the 1990s. There was a handheld video game, a cartoon, a line of trading cards. Kids went crazy for it. Adults either didn’t understand or didn’t care. But since the release of Pokémon Go, even the most dour commuter has been forced to pay attention. In fact, sometimes it is the most dour commuter that is playing!
There are plenty of explanations of the game itself, but unless you’re going to play it, you don’t really need much depth. Here are some important facts about Pokémon GO:
Pokémon GO is already more popular than Candy Crush
Nintendo’s stock skyrocketed billions of dollars upon the game’s release
The game’s virtual landscape corresponds to real, physical landscapes, and;
Players must move around the real world (and are rewarded for doing so) in order to move around the game.
There you have it. Despite a lukewarm reception from game reviewers, Pokémon GO is being hailed as a gaming revolution because it represents a new step in so-called augmented reality. Essentially, virtual treasure and virtual interactions are discoverable in the real world.
The implications could be far-reaching. Wikipedia and other sources are already suggesting that Pokémon GO could benefit people with depression and social anxiety, that it inspires folks to get more exercise and explore their communities, and that it might even help police stop crime. Previously shy people are comfortably interacting with strangers at PokéStops or else wildly hammering their phones whilst battling for ascendancy at a nearby gym. (It’s too long an explanation!)
Now of course these could be short-term benefits. After all, Google Glass was supposed to change everything. So was the Segway. But for some reason, it seems like PokémonGO could actually have a lasting impact. That’s why Wikipedia—and everyone else—are looking closely at what the game means for business, travel and society at large.
To that end, savvy hoteliers like the Mantra Group and other hospitality and tourism professionals are already paying close attention. I see three main reasons for this:
First, localities and businesses around the globe are hot spots within Pokémon Go. Pubs and cafés located in or near important locations have already begun using the game to attract business. Telecoms providers have launched special offers related to PokémonGO data usage. If the game continues to grow in popularity, it could also affect travel patterns. This is already happening in South Korea where access to the game is limited to a small area in the north of the country and hence is now experiencing a massive boom in visitation. Hotels located near important features within the game, such as PokéStops and Pokémon gyms, will do well to capitalise in a way that fits their brand.
Second, if PokémonGO proves as popular as it seems during these early stages, advertising and promotions may eventually appear within the game. This is a great example of how new platforms can (and will) become relevant to the way hotels do business, interact with potential guests, and keep themselves relevant in a constantly changing technological landscape. In line with these advances, they have just released the new Pokémon GO Plus, which is a device that alerts you whenever you are in range of a PokéStop without having to continually be looking at your phone.
Third, even if this particular craze dies down, hotels have a lot to learn from the ideas behind it. When we look at the last 10-20 years of hotel history, we realize that things never really “settle down” and in fact we are being technologically challenged every day. Who’s to say that in a few years’ time, hotels will not have their own virtual games and apps, whereby guests can find virtual treasures and promotions in different areas of the hotel or community? Who’s to say such a thing can’t happen today?
PokémonGO is proof that cyberspace, mobile technology, apps, and augmented reality can and will continue to evolve. Hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality businesses must evolve simultaneously—or lose control of the gym to those who do.
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