For kids who grew up trading Pokémon cards, Pokémon Go is a trip to yesteryear. For parents who want to motivate kids to be active, the game is a technology-friendly way to get them moving. And for businesses in the right locations, Pokémon Go can increase foot traffic and sales.
To take advantage of the augmented reality game that’s sweeping the nation, businesses need to be close to Pokéstops or gyms. Pokéstops allow players, or trainers, to stock up on Pokéballs and other game supplies. Pokéstops are easy targets for dropping lures, or in-game devices that are collected and dropped to attract wild Pokémon.
One downtown Bradenton business caught on to the Pokémon Go trend early. Ty Harris, who owns and operates Tytan Comics inside of Classic Ink at 306 12th St. W., was never a huge Pokémon fan to begin with, but became familiar with the game through the “nerd culture” conduit. He’s dropped lures since last week to bring players into his shop.
“The business we get from Lures alone pays for itself a thousand times over,” Harris said in a Facebook message. “They're 99 cents and I pay for two a weekend, and they have made me way more than that. Totally worth it.”
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Sales at Tytan Comics have increased by 25 percent since the game launched in the U.S. on July 6. Since then, the game has become available in other countries with more releases planned.
It's on twice as many phones as Tinder and people are spending more time on Pokémon Go than on Facebook right now.
Kevin McNulty, president and CEO of Netweave Social Networking
Pokémon Go was developed by Niantic Labs, a company formerly owned by Google as part of a partnership with Nintendo and The Pokémon Company, according to the Niantic website. Niantic launched another augmented reality game, Ingress, before launching Pokémon Go. Those new to Niantic games may not realize Ingress has a strong connection to Pokémon Go, according to Kevin McNulty, president and CEO of Netweave Social Networking.
“It (Ingress) has a sci-fi back story and is not familiar like Pokémon is,” McNulty said. “It’s a real-world thing where you have portals. And they built Pokémon Go on the skeleton of that. Anyone who plays Ingress knows where everything is. The portals became Pokéstops and gyms.” Game developers, after drawing ideas through crowd sourcing, used easily accessible, free public places like post offices, churches and monuments for portals.
On Thursday afternoon, McNulty will lead a workshop for local businesses about how they can take advantage of the Pokémon Go craze. From 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Manatee Chamber of Commerce Lakewood Ranch office, 4215 Concept Court, business owners can learn more about the game and how their business can use it. The workshop costs $20 for members and $30 for non-members.
Businesses have several avenues for exploiting the Pokémon Go fad, McNulty said. But location matters. Businesses can’t yet pay to be a sponsored Pokéstop or gym, though McNulty thinks sponsored locations are “in the cards.” Niantic did open up suggestions for Pokéstops through an online submission, but quickly closed it.
“Right now, Niantic has their hands full keeping the servers up,” McNulty said. Many users have experienced freezes and crashes, which usually require them to quit and reopen the app.
Some businesses, like Tytan Comics, are located near Pokéstops and gyms by luck of the draw.
“It works well for us being in downtown because we're surrounded by Pokéstops with the Riverwalk and then the encompassing downtown area,” Harris said in a Facebook message. “Would it do well as a stand-alone Pokéstop? Would it do well as a stand-alone Poké-gym in other areas? Probably not, but our location is key.”
For businesses not located close to Pokéstops or gyms, there are still options. Tijuana Flats asked customers via social networking to post pictures (screengrabs) of themselves catching Pokémon at one of the chain restaurant’s locations for a chance to win a gift card.
“If you're a gym you can offer specials too for whatever team is in control of your gym,” McNulty said. “You can have Mystic Mondays, where Mondays if you can show the cashier you're on team Mystic, you get a free drink with a sandwich.”
Manatee County is also using the game as a reason to draw people to its preserves. On Friday, the county will host its first PokéWalk from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Robinson Preserve, 1704 99th St. N.W. Parks staff will start the walk with tips for catching Pokémon and lead the group on a walk to the Robinson Preserve tower. Parks staff will also drop lures near the preserve’s entrance throughout the night.
“Since Robinson is home to three gyms, numerous PokeStops and a few uncommon and rare Pokemon, we thought we’d welcome people in and show them how to play responsibly in the preserve,” Melissa Nell, Manatee Parks and Natural Resources Education and Volunteer Division Manager said in a release. Cosplay, costumes and dressing in team colors is encouraged. Participants are asked to bring plenty of water and hydrate regularly. Bug spray and an extra battery pack for phones are also suggested.
Some other Bradenton-area businesses and organizations, such as Manatee Technical School and IMG Academy, are using the game to increase their visibility on social media.