With the nation locked away, its not surprising we turned to the world of AR and VR. To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Pokémon, we delve into the phenomenon of Pokémon GO, and the impact on mobility and tourism alongside the growing presence of AR in the retail world.
Whilst Pokémon spawn temporarily at random locations (causing much excitement amongst players), there are also “PokéStops”, a fixed location in the physical world, where players can receive benefits such as experience points and potions.
The importance of place.
“PokéStops” are not randomly selected. Niantic (Pokémon GO’s developer) uses Portal Locations; initially based on historical markers, churches, parks, and monuments, the locations are determined by using community crowdsourcing. First used in its earlier location-based game ‘Ingress’, Niantic allows players to submit Portal Locations through Niantic Wayfarer, enabling an understanding of location relevance to players. With the Pokémon map only showing 3km around the gamers current location, it is important for Niantic to understand just where its players are located and where they will happily travel to.
The impact on place in the ‘real’ world.
Pokémon GO had enough traction and popularity to impact the world around it. It is typically understood that human mobility is highly predictable, with people generally moving between home, work/school, and a handful of other fixed locations (grocery store, coffee shop, gym etc). Pokémon GO however, has indicated that location-based gaming might incentivise people to deviate from their routine…and at a tremendous scale.
I asked my partner, an avid gamer, how often he used to venture to new places specifically for Pokémon Go. He told me he often ventured into London with a group of friends to get specific Pokémon, once cycling round a park for hours to catch 100 Charmander’s to level up. To him, it wasn’t so much about the game, but an activity that him and his friends could do together (the fact it was a game, an evident bonus).
It seems tourist destinations are now using "PokéStops" as an advertisement for the cities themselves. Qantas posted an article on the 'Favourite Pokémon GO city hotspots in Australia' which is incredibly similar to their blog on 'Hottest Australian Destinations to Visit'. Glam Adelaide (a South Australian news page I used to read when I lived there) even posted an article on how you can explore Adelaide through the Pokémon GO virtual world. In Adelaide, its not just the tourists either; locals are loving the ability to tour their city like they never would: visiting places, seeing graffiti artwork (what the city is known for) they had never seen before and joining a community. Adelaide Zoo even released its own Pokémon Zoo map to help users navigate the "PokéStops" throughout the park.
This is not an isolated tourist-attraction initiative. There are several blogs outlining the best Pokémon GO locations in London, with The Lonely Planet even advertising organised Pokémon GO tours. Efforts are also on a global scale; Pokemon GO Travel aims to organise global events to the users device. Maybe this is ideal seeing as we can't travel anywhere at the moment!
Bridging the gap between online and brick-and-mortar shopping?
These AR developments are helping bridge the gap between online and brick-and-mortar shopping, and the try-before-you-buy experience is a welcomed one during the pandemic, quickly becoming an essential technology for retailers. Initially combatting the closure of physical stores, retailers are now embracing AR for the hygiene and safety benefits. Plus, research indicates that interactions with products using AR had a 94% higher conversion rate than for products without.
AR has an impressive future ahead - from AR games, like Pokémon GO, changing mobility patterns and boosting tourism, to ever improving AR retail technology bringing the online and bricks-and-mortar worlds together. With the UK soon to come out the other side of lockdown it will be interesting to see how retailers embrace the virtual and whether the digital shopping experience is here to stay.