In the midst of the buzz around the game, marketers are trying to leverage the frenzy to engage with consumers. BestMediaInfo.com spoke to gamers, augmented reality players and industry experts to know if brands can leverage this phenomenon
Archit Ambekar | Mumbai | July 19, 2016
It’s been roughly 13-odd days that Pokémon Go, a free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game developed by Niantic, was published by The Pokémon Company. Going live in the USA, Australia and New Zealand, the game took the world by storm.
Within days, ‘apk’ files of the game were uploaded on various ‘www’ websites for the globe to access it. Soon gamers around the world were almost addicted to the so-called ‘viral’ game. The addiction was so much that an average of $ 1.6 million of in-app purchases took place every day, since the launch, adding about US $ 7.5 billion (as of last week) to the market value of the Japan-based company.
While the game is not the first-of-its-kind, it is the sheer popularity of the character that makes it such a big success. The game is based on the underlined technology of augmented reality (AR) and geo-tagging that have been made mainstream because of Pokémon Go.
In the midst of the buzz around the game, marketers are trying to leverage it and engage with consumers. BestMediaInfo.com spoke to gamers, augmented reality players and industry experts to know more about this.
According to Ashish Limaye, CEO, APAC, Happy Finish, the buzz around Pokémon Go is a simple way to use the power of AR. For him, it is a one-off exercise and the success is only because of the character Pokémon. The power of the character merged with AR has created this rage. While some brands are trying to offer discounts, others have already started approaching the developer for integration.
Limaye warns that it might not be a success story for everyone.
Amaresh Godbole, Managing Director, DigitasLBi, India, thinks that the concept is not new. Games for Bollywood characters like ‘Ra.One’ and ‘Krrish 3’ have been in the Indian market but might not have done what Pokémon Go has achieved.
A lot of global and western developers have gone on ground with different quests. But Pokémon Go has made it mainstream. Arnav Ghosh, MD, Blippar India, said, “Pokémon Go is certainly a game-changer in the way it connects a user funnel from a digital to physical world, brands will no doubt want a similar impact through their investment in AR, but they have to believe in seeing through a finished product and appreciate the cost/investment of building such content. There are great AR campaigns done by various brands which have been disruptive, but Pokémon Go is a surreal account of when a new technology comes of age. It proves AR is about internet on things and (not of), this will make AR more mainstream.”
The game is a classic example of how a great idea in AR can bridge the physical and digital world. This could help brands to break the traditional funnel and help to own the moment of truth while making engagement more immersive and purchase decisions more contextual.
Sharing his insight, Nikhil Shahane, VP, Mobility and International Business, Indigo Consulting says that AR gaming can be interesting. Brands are already doing AR, and they might try to leverage integration into such games, says Shahane.
It is indeed going to be the way forward for brands and popular characters for user engagement. One never knows if a Game of Thrones or Harry Potter is already in the process of creating such quests either on popular demand from fans or after seeing the success of Pokémon Go. Not only that, brands which are ubiquitous can also leverage on this as one can easily go searching for durable products.
Harish Bijoor, Founder of Harish Bijoor consultants, thinks that artificial intelligence (AI) and AR will go hand in hand, but there has never been a mass and viral case like this one. For Bijoor, this game is an excellent opportunity for brands. “The same format can be followed by brands to build treasure hunts. Anything that is durable or FMCG companies or anything that is mass like a cola or beverage can do this,” he adds.
A rage online
Reports say the average time spent on the game has surpassed the average time spent on Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and Snapchat. It is as high as 43 minutes a day and has also attracted in-app purchases amounting to $1.6 million every day. This is the highest in-app purchase for any game in the history of gaming. Indeed, a good sign for the industry.
Young gamers and founders of Godimensions, Shravan Kumaran, President and Sanjay Kumaran, CEO, are hooked on and fascinated by the game. The brothers feel that this is the future of gaming and more such games will become popular. They believe that AR and virtual reality (VR) can do a lot and Pokémon Go is just the beginning. “The most interesting part is the interaction with you and the environment,” they say.
Rajiv Chilaka, Founder and MD, Green Gold Animation is all praise to the developers who made this ‘pretty addictive’ game. Chilaka says that after the success, he got few a written requests that they can do this with Chhota Bheem. Chilaka says that whatever is innovative is well accepted.
Chilaka feels that movie promotions could use AR to create hype and engage with consumers. But disagreeing with Bijoor, Chilaka feels that fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) integration might look like an ad. Films like Baahubali, which have done good to Indian cinema, or a character like Sultan have the potential to engage with the audience. On the other hand, he feels that familiar brands can look at integrating with the game.
The game is currently popular among tweens and young adults. A larger part of this audience is responsible for those million dollars of in-app purchases and is paving the way to change trends in in-app purchases.
Anil Nair, CEO and Managing Partner, Digital L&K Saatchi & Saatchi, feels that the game has allowed regular people to get into gaming. He too thinks that brands are looking at integrating with the game, but there is much more serious contented gaming one is yet to see.
Nair says that this is just the beginning of a revolution. In the United States, there are AR and VR amusement parks and that is an interesting attempt for brands to engage with audiences. There can be possibilities of localisation of content.
Nair says that youth-oriented brands in sport, fashion, advertising and food can do a lot with such technology. He sees a gaming social app on its way which will compete with Facebook and Twitter. Stating a classic example, Nair concludes that Samsung has already entered into virtual reality with its Samsung Gear to engage with its consumers. Google’s cardboard and Facebook’s Oculus are also in the league with Samsung Gear.
Telcos to gain
Karthik Lakshminarayan, ?VP, Strategy, Vibrant Advertising for Reliance Jio, feels that it will be a boost for all telecom providers. Considering the fact that one needs to use data to play the game, users are likely to purchase or consumer additional data. He said, “Anything that boosts data consumption will aid telecom business. That’s a non-brainer. What the industry needs is something that boosts the overall consumption of data in a huge way. Hence, an AR game with geo-tagging that is a huge success among the youth only means that consumption will surge at least 30-40 per cent higher. This will augur well for all operators.”
Apart from creating a buzz of all kinds, the game has made people find dead bodies while some have been robbed. A stampede occurred while finding a rare Pokémon and restaurants are trying to give discounts to people who have reached a particular level in the game. This is possibly the most talked about and successful games in the history of gaming. A game that is not even present in India already has morning walk groups on Facebook where people are going in search of different Pokémons.
Is brand integration a good idea?
While brands are already looking at integrating with the gaming major, experts feel it is a bad idea. Popular brands or movies for that matter can look at creating an experience by using this simple technology and engage with the audience. Telecom players are going to see a higher usage of data as people continue to walk in search of rare things.
Only some things go viral, and Pokémon is one of them. Brands like BMW – catch the Mini, and many more have tried engaging with the audience earlier, but of course not at such a scale. One is possibly yet to witness how a Game of Thrones or Harry Potter or any other popular fiction story can do wonders when combined with this technology.
Industry veteran and founder at Brand-Building.com, Ambi Parameswaran, said, “It is a wait and watch whether Pokémon Go is going to be a phenomenon or will die quickly because people have lives to live.” But he is ambiguous about which categories will associate with the brand as it is difficult to say at this moment.