Social Games, IRL, and the Realm of Possibilities

Video games don’t create a chemical dependence. Just ask your average Overwatch player, though, and we know they are addictive. About every online game cashes in on rare items, exclusive quests, etc.

Competitiveness pervades such environments. Ironic, then, that few games require any sort of “skill” as we typically define them. Fine motor ability and an eye for the next headshot or party combo is all most players require….along with phat loot. Within this framework is ginormous room for real world promotions. Players are already there, consuming digital goods. Getting them to consume irl ones is only a hop, skip, and jump away. Just look at Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go and GPS

Pokemon Go is taking the digital world by storm. Makes sense too. Who remembers Pokemon Red, Yellow, and Blue? The original SNES players, that’s for sure. That’s also been years. And the franchise has trucked along since then. New creatures. New settings. New colors. None, however, compare with the latest iteration. It leverages nostalgia while parting with the hardware exclusivity of old Nintendo -rolling with generic smartphones was a good call.

So aging millennials can again sip from the chalices of their past, sans Gameboy. Pokemon Go is more than just an accessible throwback. It’s also a real-world scavenger hunt. Nintendo uses GPS to literally coordinate creatures, items, and player hubs to real world locations. Such explorative immersion makes the game.  

The New Frontier of Promotions
Shannon, Go Pokeball!

Players literally roam around, collecting what they can from each location. This might seem novel on the surface. Go a tad deeper, though, and it becomes evident that the scenario itself hold awesome potential for marketing.

Where can these players Go!? Is a Walmart-exclusive Charizard too much to imagine? Or aqua pokemon literally populating coasts and rivers? A future of cereal boxes with GPS activators that offer rare items is a potentiality. Nintendo could literally create a theme park with nary a prop or set. Perhaps they already have. Incentivization to explore locales is mind boggling.

Even more important, such marketing goes two ways. There is room for promotions, sure -and not just through shallow themes. “Location, location, location” has never been more at the mercy of Nintendo. Brick and mortar locations benefit significantly. So too, though, can online promoters.

Gotta Catch Them All  

Pokemon Go basically places a digital overlay on the actual landscape. For the time-being it is equanimous. In fact, part of Go’s popularity is that it’s not pay-to-play. Items, creatures, etc. are all available in-game. Raw competitiveness remains unhindered.

Now pay-to-play rip-offs are doubtlessly in the works. Granted, they also merge digital and real life through currency conversion. The possible effects of location-sensitive digital promotions, however, are far more pronounced. Their potential sway is as of yet unfelt. Pokemon Go shows this will not always be the case.   

Digital GPS marketing simplifies campaigns while expanding horizons. Coupons have gone digital. Groupon, if anything, highlights millennials’ willingness to be cooperative for savings. It’s not too farfetched that promoters, fundraisers, and other outreach specialist will leverage the concept. States could find new ways to promote tourism, long standing competitions, and even lotteries. Scavenger hunts have never been more potent. If it becomes a longstanding gimmick remains to be seen.    

Images courtesy of Shannon and Eduardo Woo via Creative Commons

Posted 8 years ago on 17 July 2016

About John Lion

John's interests include technology and social dynamics. He has significant experience writing copy for SaaS organizations. Reach him by emailing

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