Pokéfever: A Digital Empire Twenty Years in the Making

I want to be the very best, like no one ever was… the anthem sung by a generation of elementary school pokemaniacs whose obsession with Nintendo’s 1996-1998 release of Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow sparked the genesis of perhaps the most lucrative and sensational video game franchise of all time. Young Millennials of the late 90s quickly became immersed in all facets of “Pokelife,” which included several video games, a television spin-off, a turn-based card game, and countless other varieties of merchandise that commanded the attention of young consumers eager to “catch ‘em all.”

Pokémon’s influence hasn’t faltered since its creation in 1996. As of 2015, the Pokémon franchise has earned 4.6 trillion yen in revenue, equivalent to $57.65 billion U.S. dollars. From this amount, 74.11 billion yen ($927.43 million U.S.) was grossed from the Pokémon movies, while the remaining earnings came from the video games, trading card game, licensed products, and animated TV shows. Two full decades later those very same elementary school children are now twenty-something-year-olds swarming to download the franchise’s latest installment “Pokémon Go,” an augmented reality mobile application that became the most popular gaming application of all time in less than a week.

As of July 15th, the number of Pokémon Go in-game buyers exceeds that of the total remaining in-game market, as well as various major social media apps such as Facebook and Twitter. Fresh data captured from Slice Intelligence found that in-game Pokémon GO purchases surpassed the rest of the mobile gaming market on July 10th and accounted for nearly 47 percent of the entire mobile gaming market on the same day. The app on Monday topped Twitter’s daily users, and has people spending more minutes per day playing the game than browsing Facebook, reports have indicated. Now comes word that game has also topped Pandora, Netflix, Google Hangouts, and Spotify, in terms of daily active users, and is installed on more devices than many popular apps, like Candy Crush, Viber, LinkedIn, Clash of Clans, Tinder and others.

Pokémon Go utilizes nostalgia to attract older users who grew up avidly playing and collecting Pokémon games. In-app spending by Millennials accounts for the majority of Pokémon GO’s in-game revenue. With 52 percent of the buyers being between the ages of 18-34, many of these individuals were part of the prime target audience when the Pokémon frenzy first hit the United States in the mid-’90s. Another impressive piece of data is the fact that many users are spending significantly more time in their Pokémon Go app than they are on Facebook or Twitter. According to Sensor Tower, on Monday, July 11th, the average iPhone user spent 33 minutes in the Pokémon Go app, whereas they only spent 28 minutes in the Facebook app, 18 minutes in the Snapchat app, 17 minutes in the Twitter app, and 15 minutes in the Instagram app. As of Monday, July 11th, the game was seeing about 21 million daily active users, according to Survey Monkey. This means that in terms of daily users, it is the biggest mobile game in U.S. history. For comparison, at its peak Candy Crush reportedly had about 20 million daily active users in the United States.

Shrewd business owners have already begun utilizing the tremendous popularity of Pokémon Go to promote themselves in conjunction with Pokémon Go related deals and offers. T-Mobile will use its T-Mobile Tuesday promotion this week to exempt the game from data charges for a year, provide $15 Lyft rides to key locations and offer discounts on chargers and battery packs—a nod to the game’s notorious battery drain. Rival telco Sprint and its Boost Mobile brand are inviting people to their local stores to capture Pokémon Go characters, which they promised to attract by purchasing the game’s “lures.” They also dangled on-site “Pokémon Go experts” and free charging stations. Simon Property Group has been promoting its malls with PokéStops via social media and is looking into the idea of sponsoring locations. “It’s adding a layer to the shopping experience that everyone is looking for,” said Gabriella Santaniello, president of retail researcher A-Line Partners.”Mall traffic has died down because it’s boring and sterile, but this is something all-encompassing that makes the mall more exciting and social.” Because many players will use the mall’s Wi-Fi, and are often required to include their email addresses to do so, there’s an opportunity for data collection as well, she added. Mortimer Singer, CEO at consulting firm Marvin Traub Associates, predicted that it will incorporate mobile commerce using digital payments. “If you take this Pokémon Go thing forward, you’re a participant in your own retail theater,” he said. “It’ll go beyond just marketing, it’ll be able to activate sales.”

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