Whether you’re a fan or not of the recent craze that has been spreading across the world over the last few weeks, PokémonGo has captured the attention of millions of people. The location-based augmented reality game from Niantic involves using your phone to explore places to try and capture virtual monsters that are spread across the real world.
There have been various responses to the global Pokémon treasure hunt phenomenon. Some have suggested it has social and health benefits as it encourages people to get outside, explore the world, and interact with others, that it encourages use of public spaces, and that it can attract peoples to museums. Others, however, have highlighted it has led to trespassing, safety concerns as people are distracted when walking around, or venturing into risky areas, as well as broader security concerns.
An interesting response has been that some locations in cities have become very busy as people discover they are Pokéstops (places to collect Pokémon and other items such as Pokéballs) and Pokégyms (places to train your Pokémon and take place in battles). There have been accounts of public spaces becoming extremely crowded, or suddenly receiving lots of additional visitors.
It turns out that many cafés have become Pokéstops or popular Pokémon hunting grounds. If you’re in London, this blog post provides a helpful list of cafés with Pokéstops. The first ones I noticed in Coventry were at Fargo Village, at Urban Coffee Company, and then at Bubble Boba which was offering a discount during a ‘PokémonGo hour’ for those playing the game. Then I came across this article about how a Costa Coffee in Worcester was surprised by the sudden influx of visitors after it was found to be a designated Pokéstop. Costa has responded to the rise in PokémonGo players by encouraging customers to interact with the brand on social media, sharing sightings of Pokemon in its cafes. Costa has even suggested they
experienced a 30% increase in customer numbers since the game was launched. It’s not just the large chain coffee shops that are taking advantage of the influx of Pokémon trainers, it seems that many cafes (and other businesses) are responding to the trend by advertising the presence of Pokémon, or capitalising on the fact that people are likely to want a rest from wandering around trying to find Pokémon. Some are even setting up ‘lures’ to try and increase the amount of Pokémon in the area (and therefore potentially customers).
In my ‘Spaces of Community’ research project I am interested in the different roles that cafes play in urban areas, and the different ways in which cafes are used. When I began this work, Pokémon Go didn’t exist, and I’ve been really interested to see how some cafes have embraced the game and tried to encourage players to visit – through advertising places as Pokéstops, offering discounts for players….
… creating Pokémon themed goods……
…..or just using the Pokémon theme….
And their efforts have clearly been noticed by customers.
It will be interesting to see how cafes continue to respond to the Pokémon Go trend. Will ‘global Pokénomics’ continue to give businesses a real-world boost? Will more cafes try to use Pokemon Go in their marketing strategies? Will more cafes try to encourage PokémonGo players to visit? Will some businesses try to create ‘PokemonGo free’ spaces (instead trying to appeal to customers who want to get away from it)? Will the Pokémon Go craze even last for very long, or is it just a passing fad? What impact will Pokemon go have on how people interact with different urban spaces, and the people in them?
If you know of a café or business that is embracing the arrival of Pokémon Go I’d be really interested to hear about it, the impact its having, on how the place is used, the impact on customers and on the business itself. This is one of the great things about research, the world is constantly changing, and there are always new dynamics to explore. When I began this research project, I never would have thought I would end up writing about Pokémon!*
If you have been drawn into the world of Pokémon Go and find yourself wandering to capture and battle more Pokémon, remember to explore the world around you beyond the Pokémon realm too!
*This is not a complaint. I have fond memories of watching the Pokemon cartoons with my younger sister, and close friends will know that the only voice impression I can do convincingly is Pikachu!